Today@Sam Article

Graduate Students Study Mathematics Of Climate Change

Dec. 19, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney


In the last decade, mathematicians and other scientists have created an international research effort focused on solving the complex global challenge of climate change.

At Sam Houston State University, Mathematics graduate students Ligia Flores and Kiara Sanchez are part of the Math and Climate Research Network program that works to understand the mathematics of the arctic polar vortex. Their work is supervised by SHSU associate professor Edward Swim and distinguished professor Christopher Jones from the University of North Carolina.

IMGSquare2“Climate change tipping points are a serious concern. You may have noticed that frequency of sudden cold weather in areas that were once not as cold or the increase in dangerously low degree weather (i.e., Canada). It is believed the arctic system is thrown out of balance, with winter arctic weather spilling over into the lower latitudes—hence the growing frequency and intensity of the polar vortex,” Flores said. “There are several reasons as to why this ‘cold snap’ is happening with one being the artic polar vortex, but what is the main cause? Our research will help gain a better understanding of why this is happening, with many identifying climate change as an influence.”

Flores and Sanchez began their study with a summer school, sponsored by the American Institute of Mathematics, which included graduate students from countries around the globe in July 2019 and is continuing with an online group collaboration along with their research on campus. 

While they both agree that their research is important, they each have different motivations for why they began. 

Head ShotSquare2“I believe that food and environmental justice are inextricably linked. That is, when people work to combat food injustice, they must also consider sustainability and its impact on the environment,” Sanchez said. “Similarly, to how food deserts disproportionately occur in minority and low-income communities, the impacts of climate change disproportionately weigh upon minority and low-income communities. Climate change is inevitably an environmental justice issue. In the same way, this is how my passion for food and environmental justice translated into my interest in Math and Climate.”

According to Flores, she wants to be a part of the community that “keeps the Earth from crippling” using her knowledge in mathematics. 

“This research program is exactly what we need in order to tackle on public health crisis,” Flores said. “The program also promotes unity as well, as our colleagues are from all across the globe.”

Their work will be presented at the SIAM 2020 Conference on Mathematics of Planet Earth in Garden Grove, California, in June 2020.

“The importance and real-world applications of our research is what excites me and motivates me to continue,” Sanchez said.  

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