climate change science/adaptation in monsoon regions
After completing a physics degree from the University of Milan, in 1995 Alessandra Giannini moved to New York and Columbia University to pursue studies in tropical climate dynamics, with the double intent of learning more about the workings of the climate system, and, by focusing on tropical climate, of learning how to do science that would be of potential use to society. Her dissertation elucidated the dynamics of the influence of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation on tropical Atlantic variability in two particularly vulnerable regions: the Brazilian Nordeste, and the islands of the Caribbean.
Since her post-doc at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, the focus of Giannini’s research has been Sahel drought. A 2003 paper of which she was first author conclusively attributed the persistence of drought in this region of Africa in the 1970s and 1980s to changes in the oceans, highlighting the contribution of warming tropical oceans, and challenging the widely held belief that the local populations were to be held responsible for this environmental disaster, hypothesized to have been brought about by rapid population growth and the consequent mismanagement of natural resources.
- dynamics of climate in the semi-arid tropics
- sub-Saharan Africa, Caribbean
- land use/land cover change: desertification and re-greening
- climate sensitivity of food security
Role at the IRI
At the IRI since 2003, Giannini continues to research climate science, specifically African climate change on all time scales, and is extremely interested in the policy implications of scientific findings, and in the role of science and scientists in our global society. She also teaches in the Master of Arts Program in Climate and Society, and in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.