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Meiyun Lin
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Meiyun Lin

Advancing knowledge of air quality interactions with weather and climate

by Chantel Bivins, OAR Communications Specialist

Where did you grow up?  What was it like?

I grew up in a little coastal and rural village in Fujian Province, China. My older brother, sister and I loved to sit on the roof of the house and count the stars. I do not recall that we had an air pollution problem at that time, in the 1980s or 1990s, and it was lovely.  My parents were hard working farmers who were very positive and never lost hope. They are my role models.

What drew you to science?

During my last year in high school I was contemplating what university to attend and what to study. Representatives came to my school to advertise their programs using posters and I was fascinated by the poster of classic Chinese architecture with a lake and blue sky. That is when I decided to get into environmental science, so that I could protect what I saw.

What kind of response have you received to your research?

Colleagues in the same field describe my research as in-depth and policy relevant. I tend to do a lot of analysis and put together different aspects of research to make a coherent story.  

What is your favorite aspect of your research?

I use pictures and figures to illustrate science because my research mainly uses models to interpret observations and the processes in air quality. My favorite design models are used to test hypotheses that help me to understand the source of air pollution.

What is the coolest thing about your work/research?

I study air quality changes over multiple decades. It is crucial to develop prediction capabilities, whether year-to-year or multiple years, so the public can get a better understanding and air quality planners can make informed decisions on how to best to improve air quality for the health of the public.

Why does your research matter?

Studying engineering led me to think about the real world and the societal impact of my science. I want my science to matter for real world applications. My research looks at global dimensions of what is causing ground level ozone pollution because high concentrations can cause asthma attacks, breathing difficulties and damage to plants and trees.

How has your experience been working at NOAA GFDL and what impact have you had in the lab?

I enjoy working at GFDL. We have an incredible team of professionals who focus on developing climate models that allow us to study change in climate and atmospheric patterns over decades and centuries. My research works on applications of the models which assist me in understanding air quality problems.

If you could change anything in the atmospheric or oceanic area, occurring in real life, what would it be? Could your research have an impact on the change?

I would like to change the belief that the U.S. has full control over the air that we're breathing. This is not an entirely true statement. We live in a global atmosphere, interconnected, and part of a global climate system. The air we are breathing can be influenced by Asian pollution drifting east toward North America and by changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns in the previous season.

My research not only helps scientists but also helps decision makers think about air pollution as a global phenomenon. My research has brought together NOAA climate models and observations to support targeted needs in U.S. air quality management.

What are your future goals for working in atmospheric and ocean science?

I want to continue to bridge the gap between atmospheric chemistry research and oceanic sciences to improve our understanding of how global ocean and weather phenomena affect air pollution.

Speaking of bridging gaps, would you like to see more women scientists in your field or interested in science overall?

Growing up in southern China, I was the first girl in the village to obtain a Ph.D. and become a scientist. Although there may be more now, I am convinced that it is essential to attract more women into geoscience academia. Diversity enhances problem solving, increases in creativity and rises in the level of critical analysis.

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