The GMAO’s Amin Dezfuli Announced as a Recipient of the NASA Robert H. Goddard Science Excellence Award


Amin Dezfuli has been chosen as a recipient of the NASA Robert H. Goddard Science Excellence Award. The award cites “your outstanding and creative use of NASA GMAO data to advance understanding of the Earth system, exploring bird migration, health risks, wildfires, droughts, and more.”

photo of Amin DezfuliAmin creatively uses NASA products to advance understanding of the Earth system, exploring novel aspects of climate-related applications such as bird migration, international water conflicts, health risks, dust storms, wildfires, droughts, and atmospheric rivers. In addition to publishing peer-reviewed articles, his work informs the broader community by developing tools for visualization and analysis of NASA’s climate data, writing opinion pieces on how these data can help solve socio-environmental problems, and creating visual arts to bridge science and art.

For example, one focus of Amin’s research is extreme floods caused by atmospheric rivers. This yielded two lead-author papers, highlighted in Nature, describing the role of this phenomenon in record floods in the Middle East, and for the first time, their contribution to dust storms and restoration of drying lakes. The results also present the skillful prediction of such events by NASA’s weather forecast model, and how to incorporate into decision-making frameworks that could save lives and ecosystems in regions highly vulnerable to weather extremes.

As another example, Amin led a multidisciplinary paper, involving collaborators from two universities, on compound effects of climate change in the Middle East. They analyzed the latest climate projections from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, evaluated against MERRA-2, and identified the Tigris-Euphrates headwaters as the hotspot of enhanced climate change impacts in the region. The results warn the adverse impacts of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, the largest hydro-development in the region, may outnumber its benefits in coming decades. These impacts include climate migration, transboundary water conflicts, increase in dust and diseases like malaria, and energy and water shortages. Given the vulnerability of the region to climate change, the results would have crucial implications for future regional and global security.

Dr. Dezfuli has also been involved in developing climate analysis tools, including coauthoring an open-source package for geospatial analysis, contributing to FLUID (Framework for Live User-Invoked Data)—a NASA interactive platform for climate data analysis and visualization, and using visual art to facilitate climate dialogue with the non-specialists. He’s written review papers (e.g., in Oxford Research Encyclopedia on climate of the Congo Basin) and opinion pieces (e.g., in Nature Middle East on atmospheric rivers) to show the capability of NASA products in explaining climate science to the broader community. He’s also actively presented his work in venues beyond the research community, such the World Bank.

As described above, Amin resourcefully uses various NASA products to show their interdisciplinary applications in advancing our understanding of the Earth system, and creatively incorporates innovative approaches to better communicate NASA capabilities with non-specialists.

Recently published articles related to his work include the following:

  • Dezfuli, A., K. G. Horton, B. Zuckerberg, S. D. Schubert, and M. G. Bosilovich, 2022. Continental patterns of bird migration linked to climate variability. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 103 (2), E536-E547. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-21-0220.1
  • Dezfuli, A., S. Razavi, and B. Zaitchik, 2022. Compound effects of climate change on future transboundary water issues in the Middle East. Earth's Future, 10, e2022EF002683. doi: 10.1029/2022EF002683
  • Dezfuli, A., 2022. Studying the Middle East's sky rivers. Nature Middle East doi: 10.1038/nmiddleeast.2022.8

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