New Faculty Member: Pierre Gentine

Dr. Pierre Gentine has been appointed as the new Chu Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics at Columbia University, a non-tenure two-year position in the Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics Department.

Prof. Gentine obtained his B.Sc. at SupAéro (French Aeronautical School), with a major in applied mathematics. After his graduation in 2002, he became a civil servant for a French-Moroccan collaboration project, whose objective was to study the impact of agriculture on water resources and to determine “good practices” that reduce the human footprint on the water resources in the region of Marrakech, Morocco. Prof. Gentine then decided to develop his education in the field of hydrology and water resources, and obtained a M.Sc. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006. He obtained a Shoettler fellowship in 2004. After graduation, he worked as a consultant in the industry in Paris, France from 2006 to 2007. Prof. Gentine then decided to go back to the academia and was a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2007 to 2009 under the supervision of Prof. Dara Entekhabi, Director of Parsons Laboratory, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He graduated recently on September 22, 2009.

Prof. Gentine’s research focuses on land and atmosphere interactions and the inherent feedback between the two systems. The overall motivation of his work is to improve the estimation of evaporation over land, which in turn improves water resources management, weather and climatic forecasts.

The first part of his research is related to the understanding of the role of solar radiation on the land-surface heat fluxes and scalars (temperature, humidity). Indeed, land-surface temperatures are now commonly used along with data assimilation (filtering) techniques to estimate evaporation over the entire globe. A better understanding of the daily cycle of the land-surface temperature leads to more accurate estimates of evaporation over land, in particular in developing countries, which have limited networks of meteorological sensors.

The second part of his research involves comprehending soil moisture and precipitation feedback. In most regions and weather conditions, an increase in soil moisture leads to an increase in precipitation, yet there are situations where more soil moisture leads to less rain. Prof. Gentine is investigating the underlying physical mechanisms controlling these behaviors over West Africa, the U.S. and Europe.

The third part of Prof. Gentine’s work is dedicated to the use of remote sensing and data assimilation (filtering) to determine soil moisture globally. In particular, he is trying to develop new filtering techniques to better use the available remote sensing information for soil moisture inferring.

Finally, he is investigating the response of soil moisture to stochastic rainfall forcing, and the corresponding effect of time scales. He is collaborating with researchers in the U.S., Switzerland and France.

Prof. Gentine is currently teaching the undergraduate Applied Mathematics course APMA E3101 Linear Algebra.

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