Skip to main content

Deeksha Rastogi: Climate and extreme events

As the climate changes, extreme events such as heat waves, drought and flooding are becoming more frequent and more intense. Computational scientist Deeksha Rastogi uses high-performance computing at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to better understand and predict these events and their effects on human populations and infrastructure.

Rastogi’s work projects climate impacts at regional and local scales that are helpful for decision-makers, examining questions such as how heat stress might increase in a low-income neighborhood or whether hydropower generation could be affected in a particular river network. Her findings can advance understanding of how climate change is likely to impact marginalized communities and vulnerable ecosystems.

What climate-related problem are you working on?

My research mainly focuses on understanding climate extremes, such as drought, heat waves, or extreme rainfall events. I evaluate these extremes and their characteristics in the historical period or current period, and I also look at projected changes in these extremes as our climate is warming.

Why does the research matter?

In my research, I’m trying to bridge the gap between the scales at which climate scientists work, which is about 50 kilometers or 100 km, and the scale the impact of climate change is actually felt, which is at local scale or regional scale. I get to work with researchers who are looking at health outcomes or the impact on hydropower generation or electricity demand. So that way, we are trying to make an impact and understand how these extremes are going to impact lives of people.

What keeps you motivated?

Climate change is a big threat that we are facing today. And there’s a lot to be done, from understanding the extent of climate change, understanding the extent of the impacts of these extreme events, to finding ways in which we can adapt to these changes. And that’s what keeps me going — that there’s a lot to be done.

What about the research keeps you up at night?

Climate change is already happening. We are seeing more severe consequences with more frequent heat waves, drought, wildfire and floods. I worry about whether we are doing enough to adapt to these changes, which are happening at such a fast pace. So, that is one of the biggest problems that we are trying to solve, but there’s, again, a lot more to be done to solve that.

What would you tell a student interested in pursuing a career in climate science or a related field?

Climate science is a multidisciplinary science. To solve a big problem like climate change, we need researchers from different fields to come together — fields such as physics, mathematics, computational sciences, atmospheric sciences and even social sciences. I would encourage students to gain interdisciplinary exposure by working in a more collaborative environment. I feel one of the best ways to achieve that is by pursuing an internship at an institution like Oak Ridge National Laboratory.