Catherine Anna Nikiel

Graduate Student

I joined the Eltahir group in September 2016 and began work on investigating land use/land cover change impacts on regional climate changes in North America during the 20th century using the MIT Regional Climate Model. I completed my S.M. at MIT in February 2018 looking at the contributions of irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural expansion and intensification on observed temperature and precipitation changes in the region.
My PhD work continues in Central North America, predominately the Midwest and Great Plains of the United States, and will focus on future heat wave and drought events. These areas are centers of economic importance, but also home to large portions of the population, and it is important to quantify the intensity and spatial extent of dangerous conditions that may be observed in a changing climate. Of particular interest are humid heat waves, and the changes in the climatology of wet bulb temperature, which provides an improved metric for quantifying deadly conditions. Both long-term and short-term drought events will also be studied, from agricultural droughts, to the potential that this region will experience another Dust Bowl like drought in the future.
Prior to joining the group, I graduated from Rice University in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (hydrology and water resources focus) and a minor in Energy and Water Sustainability. As an undergraduate, I was advised by Dr. Philip B. Bedient, Herman Brown Professor of Engineering in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and Director of the SSPEED Center, and I worked in his research group on projects centered around hurricane damage mitigation and urban stormwater management.