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.
“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.”
While they both agree that their research is important, they each have different motivations for why they began.
“I believe that food and environmental justice are inextricably linked. 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 a public health crisis,” Flores said. “The program also promotes unity with our colleagues from across the globe.”
Their work will be presented at the SIAM 2020 Conference on Mathematics of Planet Earth in Garden Grove, California, this June.
“The importance and real-world applications of our research is what excites me and motivates me to continue,” Sanchez said.