TISED Newsletter 

Trottier Chair in Sustainable Engineering and Design

Dr. Laxmi Sushama

The appointment of Dr. Laxmi Sushama as the Trottier Chair in Sustainable Engineering and Design promises to propel TISED’s well-established research to a new echelon of public influence. Dr. Sushama assumed her position on August 1, 2017. 

Portrait of Dr. Laxmi SushamaDr. Laxmi Sushama conducts first-rate climate research and continues to have a significant influence on climate research and on adaptation strategies of private and public bodies. Dr. Sushama currently holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Regional Climate Modeling, leveraging her research excellence in engineering hydrology, water resources, engineering climate science and earth systems dynamics, at the Centre ESCER (Centre pour l'étude et la simulation du climat à l'échelle régionale). Since 2008, she has been an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQÀM). Prior to that, Dr. Sushama worked at Ouranos Consortium on Regional Climatology and Adaptation to Climate Change in Montreal as a climate specialist, and at UQÀM as a research associate and post-doctoral fellow in the area of regional climate modelling with an emphasis on climate change and the regional hydrologic cycle. Before moving to Canada, she was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of California, Los Angles, soon after completing her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Melbourne, Australia. 

La nomination de Madame Laxmi Sushama au poste de la Chaire fondée TISED en ingénierie et conception durables promet de propulser les travaux de recherche déjà bien établis de TISED vers de nouveaux sommets d’influence publique.

Elle était le candidat idéal grâce à la recherche de pointe menée par Mme Sushama, sa perspicacité en tant qu’enseignante et la grande influence qu’elle a exercée sur les études et stratégies d’adaptation au changement climatique d’organismes privés et publics, ce qui fait d’elle l’ambassadrice idéale pour diriger l’institut dans sa prochaine phase de croissance. Elle est titulaire d’une chaire de recherche du Canada de niveau 2 en modélisation du climat régional. Elle met à profit son excellence en matière de recherche dans les domaines de l’ingénierie hydrologique, du génie hydro-économique, de la climatologie et de la dynamique du système terrestre, au Centre ESCER (Centre pour l'étude et la simulation du climat à l'échelle régionale). Depuis 2008, elle a fait des recherches à titre d’adjointe de recherche et de spécialiste en climat à l’UQAM et au Consortium Ouranos. Avant d'arriver au Canada, elle a fait une maîtrise en hydrologie à la National University de l’Irlande et un doctorat du ministère du Génie civil et du Génie de l’environnement à l’Université de Melbourne (Australie). Ensuite, elle a fait sa recherche postdoctorale à l’Université de Californie, à Los Angeles. 

Selected Research:​

1. Improved representation of land surface processes in the fifth generation of the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM)

Better representation of land processes and land heterogeneity in climate models is key to realistic energy and water partitioning at the surface, and is therefore important to improve the realism of the surface climate and hydrology. The representation of land processes was improved in the CRCM through the incorporation of a number of land modules, under her guidance. These include interactive modelling of near surface permafrost, lakes and dynamic vegetation that are very important for the Canadian high- latitudes. These implementations have enabled better comprehension of land-climate interactions in the Canadian high-latitudes and led to a number of invited talks at international events such as EGU, Entretiens Jacques Cartier, and the international summer school on climate variability and climate change. This improved model is currently being used by Ouranos Consortium, for producing transient climate change simulations to support impact and adaptation studies of various provincial and government bodies/sectors, as well as private industries. 

2. Assessment of climate-change impacts on Canadian water resources using RCM projections   

This first ever Canada-wide study to assess projected changes to water resources using regional climate model projections was led by Dr. Sushama. Provision of detailed nation-wide information of climate-change impacts on water resources and estimates of future water availability, based on an ensemble of state-of-the-art RCMs was an important deliverable of this project. In particular, the study provided first hand information on projected changes to number of dry/wet days, short and long dry spells, precipitation extremes and low- and high-flows. These results were communicated to the climate impacts community and made available for further study into the ecological and social consequences of these changes. This project led to further strengthening the collaborations with HydroQuebec and Manitoba Hydro. 

3. Role of land in modulating temperature and precipitation extremes

A number of studies, including those undertaken under her guidance, suggest an increase in the frequency and intensity of temperature and precipitation extremes over Canada. The physical mechanisms underlying such changes may relate to changes in large-scale circulation and/or changes in processes such as soil moisture-atmosphere interactions. Under Dr. Sushama's guidance, efforts were deployed to understand the role of land state, particularly soil moisture, in modulating temperature and precipitation extremes over Canada. This led to the identification of hotspots of land-atmosphere coupling over the region, and its inter-seasonal and inter-annual variability and projected changes in future climate. This is crucial information for developing adaptation strategies, particularly for the development of early warning and prediction tools for temperature and precipitation extremes. 

4. Quantification of uncertainties within a multi-RCM framework

RCMs are associated with various sources of uncertainties, which include (a) structural uncertainty associated with model formulation, (b) internal variability (triggered by differences in the initial conditions), and (c) dependence on boundary forcing (i.e. the driving GCM). A multi-RCM ensemble is essential to better quantify these uncertainties. The article by Monette et al. (2012), which focussed on the evaluation and assessment of future changes to single- and multi-day precipitation extremes over 21 selected north-east Canadian watersheds, using the NARCCAP multi-RCM ensemble and the Regional Frequency Analysis approach, proposed ways of quantifying these above mentioned uncertainties. This research thus contributed crucial information that will help HydroQuebec in its effort to better plan and adapt its hydroelectric power generation infrastructure in a changing climate.

5. Cold-regions hydrology in a changing climate

Climate change, induced by increased anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases, is being experienced particularly intensely in the Arctic, with Arctic average temperatures having risen at almost twice the rate of the rest of the world in the past few decades. The impact of climate change on permafrost is very important as it can change the hydrology for the region significantly. The very first study over Canada to understand projected changes to the soil thermal and moisture regimes was undertaken by Sushama et al. (2006). Though the model used was simple, it gave some important ideas as to what to expect in a changing climate. This research attracted great attention from both national and international researchers and Dr. Sushama was invited to give talks at Environment Canada in Downsview - Toronto, University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Ouranos Consortium and GEC3 based at McGill. This work has since then been expanded to address other scientific questions such as the impact of interactive phenology on permafrost and the regional hydrology using RCM experiments.

Selected Recent Publications:

Jeong, D.I. and L. Sushama, 2017. Rain-on-snow events over North America based on two Canadian regional climate models. Climate Dynamics. DOI:10.1007/s00382-017-3609-x.

Huziy O. and L. Sushama, 2016. Impact of lake-river connectivity and interflow on the Canadian RCM simulated regional climate and hydrology for Northeast Canada. Climate Dynamics. DOI: 10.1007/s00382-016-3104-9.

Monette, A., L. Sushama, M.N. Khaliq, R. Laprise and R. Roy, 2012. Projected changes to precipitation extremes for Northeast Canadian watersheds using a multi-RCM ensemble. Journal of Geophysical Research, DOI: 10.1029/2012JD017543.

Martynov, A., L. Sushama, R. Laprise, K. Winger and B. Dugas, 2011. Interactive Lakes in the Canadian Regional Climate Model, version 5: The Role of Lakes in the Regional Climate of North America. Tellus A, DOI: 10.3402/tellusa.v64i0.16226

Sushama, L., M.N. Khaliq, and R. Laprise, 2010. Dry spell characteristics over Canada in a changing climate as simulated by the Canadian RCM. Global and Planetary Change, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.07.004.  

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