Emily's work concerns clouds, and more specifically, the individual water droplets that make up each cloud. Through her work, Emily seeks to capture the behavior of these water droplets in the most accurate way possible, while also not consuming too much computational energy.
"The goal is to create a new climate model that is more accurate and more honest about when it's not accurate." — Emily K. de Jong
Emily's work in Caltech's ESE program is centered around computational modeling. Her work focuses on how to closely model the climate as well as how to be transparent about the uncertainties of climate modeling.
"Where you have clouds, what shape they take, all of those things matter a lot."
— Emily K. de Jong
Emily's research relates to the fact that different clouds have different effects on the climate. For example, stratocumulus clouds, like the ones seen in California in the early summer, are clouds that cool the climate, but cirrus clouds, which are typically higher up in the sky, actually warm the climate, trapping more heat than they reflect. These behaviors highlight the misconception that any type of cloud cover is beneficial in cooling the climate. This work also indicates that it is important to accurately capture the physics of all of these cloud types in computational models to ensure they are accurate at predicting the climate.
Along with having to factor in the different types of physics that impact different clouds, Emily says that aerosols, such as those emitted in the exhaust from cars or the smoke from factories, are important because cloud droplets tend to form on these aerosols. However, she adds that very little is certain about the global effect of these aerosols and how to model those effects accurately.
Outside of her research, Emily enjoys participating in Caltech's orchestra (where she plays the bassoon) as well as being outdoors. Emily serves as the co-leader of Caltech's Alpine Club, which participates in many forms of outdoor recreation, including mountaineering, biking, and more.
Emily says, "Sometimes I'll go on a bike ride really early in the morning, and I'll start below the clouds and by the time I finish my ride and turn around I'll be above the clouds. I feel like in the past that would be something that I would just completely disregard, but now I have this appreciation for it. As a joke I like to call it….'experimental research.' "
WRITTEN BY: Audrey Ma