23 episodes

Deep Convection is a podcast featuring real conversations between climate scientists (or sometimes those working in areas adjacent to climate science). The goal is to capture what it is like to work in our field at this moment in history. We talk about our lives, how we came to do what we do, what the work means to us, and how that is changing, or isn’t – and sometimes about science. Our top priority is to capture good conversations, but if some learning happens that’s fine too.

Deep Convection Deep Convection

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 30 Ratings

Deep Convection is a podcast featuring real conversations between climate scientists (or sometimes those working in areas adjacent to climate science). The goal is to capture what it is like to work in our field at this moment in history. We talk about our lives, how we came to do what we do, what the work means to us, and how that is changing, or isn’t – and sometimes about science. Our top priority is to capture good conversations, but if some learning happens that’s fine too.

    Episode 10: Shang-Ping Xie

    Episode 10: Shang-Ping Xie

    When Shang-Ping Xie entered middle school in his home town about 300 miles southwest of Shanghai, China had just come out of the Cultural Revolution, the tumultuous political movement launched by Mao Zedong that had dominated Chinese life for a decade in the 1960s and 70s. That was lucky timing and a big turning point for Shang-Ping: If he had been a few years older, he might have been sent to the countryside after graduating from high school, to work on farms and learn about the rural life. But after the end of the Cultural Revolution, the universities reopened and a merit-based admission system was introduced, which allowed Shang-Ping to go to college to study oceanography (without ever having seen the ocean before!).

    From there he went to grad school in Japan, then to the US, then back to Japan for his first faculty position, then back to the US, eventually taking on his current position as a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

    Shang-Ping's research covers a broad range of topics centered around atmosphere-ocean interactions and their role in climate formation, variability, and change. Some highlights of his incredibly prolific scientific career include the work that led to the formulation of the wind-evaporation-sea surface temperature feedback mechanism in the 1990s, and later his contributions to the discovery of the Indian Ocean capacitor effect, and to the development of the "warmer-get-wetter" idea for how rainfall will change with global warming.

    The driving force behind Shang-Ping's impressive scientific output is his deep curiosity and (to quote Richard Feynman) the "pleasure of finding things out", which have remained unaffected by the "daily grind" of academic life. How he has managed to do that is part of this conversation as well, along with his thoughts on climate change, and how his perception of it has evolved over the years.

    "For a period of time I was asking myself what’s beyond what I have done so far. Because at some point, I felt, I know a few things, I just couldn’t see what’s ahead. But I think somehow I was able to overcome this feeling now. Because [...] there are still a lot of puzzles. I feel like I know what I want to do for the next few years."

    The interview with Shang-Ping Xie was recorded in March 2021. Image credit: Nelvin C. Cepeda

    Shang-Ping's website at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography

    • 1 hr 47 min
    Episode 9: George Philander

    Episode 9: George Philander

    Growing up in South Africa under apartheid, George Philander had to follow a lot of laws that didn't make sense to him, e.g., that he was not allowed to stand in the line for white people at the post office. When he discovered mathematics and science, he was happy to have found a world that was governed by rational and coherent laws."South Africa [...] was a strange place because of the apartheid policies. I basically lived in two worlds that didn’t really intersect. The one was the social world, which was subject to these strange laws. And at the same time, I was becoming a scientist, and the world of science seemed an escape from the irrationalities of the apartheid laws."George left South Africa in the 1960s to go to graduate school at Harvard, where he decided to move into oceanography. Apart from taking classes and doing research, he also continued to be interested in social concerns, and on weekends he would join people in protesting the war in Vietnam, or even the apartheid in South Africa.Despite all the differences between the U.S. and South Africa, George also sees some fundamental parallels between these two stages of his life:"So now I could again do the science and separate the social life [from it]. But the science was much more interesting, and the social life was much more interesting. So it was a somehow idealized version of what I had experienced in South Africa."After completing his PhD, George went on to do a postdoc with Jule Charney at MIT, before moving to Princeton where he spent the rest of his career, first at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics lab and then as a professor at Princeton University, from where he retired a few years ago. George is a giant in climate science and has made many important contributions to the field, but he is best known for his key advances in our understanding of the El Niño-southern oscillation phenomenon, or ENSO.Throughout the years, George has been thinking a lot about how science interacts with the larger world, and he has become convinced that we should not divorce our social concerns from our professional activities. That recognition even led George back to South Africa for a few years in the 2000s, where his goal was to instill an appreciation for nature in young people:"We’re so focused on the gloom and doom of global warming that we count on fear to persuade people to take care of planet Earth. And I would argue that instead of fear, they should do it out of love for the planet. But you can only love what you know, so they should really know something about the planet before we can expect them to take care of it."In this conversation, George also talks about the role of luck in people's lives and careers, about shortcomings of the educational system, and about living far from home.The interview with George Philander was recorded in February 2021. Image credit: Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications, Princeton UniversityGeorge's website at Princeton University

    • 1 hr 33 min
    Episode 8: Suzana Camargo

    Episode 8: Suzana Camargo

    Suzana Camargo is one of the world’s leading experts on tropical cyclones — a type of storm that includes hurricanes — and their relationship to the climate. When she first started to do research on hurricanes, she thought it was only going to be a one-year project. But life is unpredictable, and so

    "[...] and then 20 years later, here I am, still doing hurricanes."

    Suzana's path to the hurricanes had not been a straight one: She began her academic career in plasma physics, and only moved into atmospheric science after giving up her job as a tenured professor in Brazil and moving to the US, where she took a position as staff associate at the then newly-founded International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

    This was a big change, and in many ways also a big step down, and it required a lot of work and persistence to firmly establish herself as a leader in the field, and to rise through the ranks to her current position as the first holder of the Marie Tharp Lamont Research Professorship at Columbia University.

    "[It] was a big change, [...] it was a lot, everything. It was moving countries, two small kids, changing fields. Everything was so overwhelming that I basically was, I felt like I was just going through the motions and trying to survive each day."

    The move from Brazil, where Suzana was born and raised, to the US had not been her first international move: Suzana had done her Ph.D. and postdoc in Germany, where she learned, among other things, that the hardest part in science is often to come up with a good research question, and that the Bavarian dialect sounds very different from the standard German.

    Over the last 20 years, Suzana has made important contributions to our understanding of how tropical cyclones are affected by natural climate variations, like El Niño; the influence of human-induced climate change on tropical cyclones, including the evaluation of simulations of tropical cyclones in climate models, and to the practice of seasonal climate forecasting of tropical cyclone activity. At Lamont, she and Adam have offices next door to each other, and the two of them have collaborated on many of these topics.

    The interview with Suzana Camargo was recorded in October 2020. Image credit: Suzana Camargo

    Suzana's website at Columbia University

    • 1 hr 42 min
    Episode 7: Nadir Jeevanjee

    Episode 7: Nadir Jeevanjee

    Nadir Jeevanjee is one of those rare people who have both depth and breadth in their skills. He is probably the only person who ever wrote a textbook about tensors and group theory while taking a few years off from grad school to tour with a rock band, and that fact alone should make you want to listen to this interview.

    Nadir was born and raised in Los Angeles, and when he was 12 or 13, he got obsessed with music, especially with drumming. Towards the end of high school, he joined The Calling, a rock band that had a huge hit on the radio in the early 2000s. He went to college with the goal of becoming a professional musician, but found himself enjoying physics classes more than music theory, so much so that he embarked on a PhD in physics at UC Berkeley.

    About three years into it and struggling with a bit of a "mid-PhD crisis", Nadir left academia for what turned out to be four years, to tour the country with another band — that's when he wrote that textbook about tensors. Eventually, though, he finished his PhD and moved into atmospheric science. He is now a Research Physical Scientist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, where he studies the physics of clouds, radiation, and climate, using a hierarchy of approaches ranging from pencil-and-paper theory to comprehensive computer simulations. His specialty is to condense the complexity of the atmosphere into simple, elegant frameworks that are tractable for human brains.

    Nadir is also deeply engaged in the communication of climate science to the wider world and confounded a group called Climate Up Close, which tries to make the essentials of climate science accessible to a broad audience and give people the opportunity to talk directly with climate scientists.

    "So I started to give public talks called "Climate Science: How Do We Know What We Know?", trying to focus on evidence and trying to de-emphasize the consensus on climate change. It's a very useful fact for people who don't know it, but for people who do know there's a consensus but aren't convinced by that, I think that beating them over the head with it if they've already heard it, I think can backfire. And so I wanted to try an approach where I just focused on the evidence. [...] And not only try to share a little bit of what we know about climate science, but also get face time."

    The interview with Nadir Jeevanjee was recorded in November 2020. 

    Nadir's website 

    His book, An Introduction to Tensors and Group Theory for Physicists

    Climate Up Close

    Three blackboard lectures on simple models in climate science, which Nadir gave in February 2018 in Princeton

    • 1 hr 29 min
    Episode 6: Fran Moore

    Episode 6: Fran Moore

    Fran Moore, an assistant professor in Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, works at the intersection of environmental economics and climate science. She studies the impacts of climate change from an economic and societal perspective — how to quantify these impacts, and also how people and communities adapt.

    Fran grew up in London, but moved to the US for college, in part because she wanted to do "something a little bit broader" than what continuing her science-focused academic track in the UK would have allowed her to do. This desire to look at things holistically and from an interdisciplinary angle has become a hallmark of her work, in which she uses a variety of statistical methods, economic and climate models. Recently, she has even used Twitter data to understand what type of weather people think of as normal, and how that might be changing.

    In this interview, Fran also talks about what is valuable in human society, and how economists try to measure human well-being. And, she and Adam get into a broader conversation about the relation between science and politics, the roles of climate scientists and academics generally in the public sphere, and whether by doing research climate scientists are really helping anyone or not.

    "That was part of my motivation to move more into the social sciences. Because my view was, I think, recognizing that the big questions we need to motivate action on climate change, on the science side, have largely been answered. At least on the mitigation side. But there are still big questions, right?"

    The interview with Fran Moore was recorded in September 2020. Photo credit: UC Davis

    Fran's website at UC Davis

    Follow Fran on Twitter: @ClimateFran

    • 1 hr 36 min
    Episode 5: Marshall Shepherd

    Episode 5: Marshall Shepherd

    Before Marshall Shepherd was bitten by the weather bug, he wanted to be an entomologist. But as luck would have it (at least for the fields of weather and climate science), Marshall changed his sixth-grade science project from honey bees to weather prediction after he had found out that he was highly allergic to bee stings. That science project marked the beginning of Marshall's passion for weather, which has led him to become professor of geography and atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia.

    Marshall is particularly well known for his work on urban weather and climate, where he has shown that large urban areas can have a more substantial impact on the atmosphere than had been previously though — that is, cities can make their own weather to some extent. In addition to doing research and teaching, Marshall hosts his own podcast, Weather Geeks, which grew out of the award-winning Sunday talk show he did for some years on the Weather Channel. He writes a regular column for Forbes, and does a lot of service to the scientific community at the highest levels — e.g., he served as President of the American Meteorological Society in 2013.  In between all of these activities, Marshall regularly finds the time to testify before Congress and provide expertise to federal agencies.

    To Marshall, public outreach and service is an integral part of being a scientist:

    "I've actually been working or pushing really hard to try to advocate that engagement and service becomes more of a part of that sort of calculus for things like promotions and tenure because I don't view it as something extra when I do these things. I view it [...] as a synthesis of a broader mission that we have."

    The interview with Marshall Shepherd was recorded in August 2020. Photo credit: Nancy Evelyn

    Marshall's website at the University of Georgia, and his personal website

    His recently published book, The Race Awakening of 2020: A 6-Step Guide for Moving Forward

    The Weather Geeks podcast

    Marshall's TEDx talk on biases that shape our worldview

    Marshall's articles in Forbes

    • 59 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
30 Ratings

30 Ratings

Pixel89 ,

Excellent interviews

An interesting set of interviews that beautifully present the broad diversity of pathways into science, lives, and thought patterns of climate scientist.
The curation of people to interview is extremely thoughtful.

Plantsperson ,

Fun, in-depth conversations

Interesting scientists, real conversations about key moments in their careers, some “aha” moments about climate and how science works.

T to the tizzy ,

Oral history of scientists

While the overt audience would appear to be professional academic scientists primarily in the area of Earth, atmospheric, and climate science; it can be of interest to a general audience of curious minds. Furthermore, the interviews serve as an oral history of the field and the people who participate in it. Not only does the discussion touch on the formal field of study, but also puts it into historical and personal perspective for each of the interviewees.

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