Local Researcher Explores Trends In Historic Heat Waves

by | Jul 31, 2015

Karin Bumbaco is the Assistant State Climatologist at the Office of the Washington State Climatologist (OWSC), located at the University of Washington. OWSC is an expert source of climate and weather information for state and local decision makers as well as the public. In addition, Karin’s research focuses on the weather and climate of Washington State.

Recently, Karin was involved in a study that constructed a record of historical heat waves in western Washington and western Oregon since 1900, Karin and her co-authors found that overnight heat events—ones where the night’s stay warm—have been increasing, where daytime events have had no changing out part of the country. They also found some key difference between these two types of events, which could have some implications for being able to forecast them better.

Karin was interested in weather from a young age. For her fourth grade science fair, she tracked the weather forecast for a month in her hometown and compared it to what actually happened. “I remember enjoying doing the project, but being disappointed at the actual Science Fair because all the others kids had hands-on experiments that you could touch while mine was just written out on poster board,” says Karin. However, the judges were impressed, and Karin won first place! “That’s a really special memory I have. I was so surprised, and it gave me the confidence to continue to pursue what I liked.”

Once in college at Penn State University, Karin became interested in climate—generally defined as the long-term average or weather—and interned at Pennsylvania State Climate Office. That gave her the experience she needed to eventually end up at OWSC, but not before she earned her Master’s Degree in Atmospheric Science from Ohio State. Karin focused her degree on climate, and got to travel to Peru to maintain and install weather stations in the Andes Mountains. The field work was one of Karin’s favorite research memories, noting that it was a welcome challenge that introduced her to hiking and camping, both of which she now enjoys.

Outreach is one of the core missions at OWSC, and Karin has been volunteering with Pacific Science Center since 2009 as a Science Communication Fellow. Karin enjoys the Outreach portion of her job, whether it’s giving a talk to adults or facilitating hands-on activities at schools and the Science Center. “I enjoys experiencing that ‘ah-ha’ moment with someone whether it’s a child learning about rain shadows or an adult that finally understands the basis of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation,” says Karin.

Karin Bumbaco is a regular of Pacific Science Center’s annual event Paws-on Science: Husky Weekend; a research weekend that showcases the cutting-edge research taking place at the University of Washington.