Dr. Mathew Sapiano
By Lauren McLendon
Most strive to work in a field for which we feel a strong passion. ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Dr. Mathew Sapiano is fortunate to work in a field that combines not only one, but two of his passions, statistics and precipitation.
Growing up, Dr. Sapiano was not certain what he wanted to do for a career. He said, laughing, that when he was much younger he actually wanted to be in a band. In fact, for several years during his teenage years he played drums with several bands.
However, during his college years at the University of Reading, U.K., he left music behind and focused his knack for numbers into a budding interest in statistics.
After receiving his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in statistics and his Ph.D. in meteorology from the University of Reading, Dr. Sapiano continued to build on weather-related work he had done as a post-graduate.
This work, which focused on precipitation, solidified Dr. Sapiano’s interest in weather and climate and started his interest in remote sensing from satellites.
“I was working with precipitation and global measurements from satellite estimates and, over time, I became more interested in satellites and the high time and space resolution datasets that these measurements give us,” Sapiano said.
Though originally from Southampton, England, Dr. Sapiano said he always liked the United States. He was particularly drawn to the U.S. because he said there were opportunities to work with satellites that were not available in the U.K.
Once he made his move across the Atlantic in 2005, he worked at ESSIC/CICS on the production of merged model and satellite precipitation estimates, validation and statistical modeling of ocean color estimates.
In 2010 he took a position at Colorado State University working on intercalibration and other issues associated with a climate data record for the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSMI) and the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS).
“I wanted to learn more about the engineering side of satellites and instruments and the SSMI/SSMIS CDR project allowed me to do that. It was an interesting learning opportunity,” Sapiano said.
In 2012 Dr. Sapiano returned to ESSIC/CICS.
“There were interesting projects I wanted to [become involved with at ESSIC/CICS], and [the DC area] is a more stimulating place,” Dr. Sapiano said, noting that, during his time in Colorado, he never stopped loving the Washington, D.C. area; though, he said he misses the ability to ride his bike through the great outdoors of Colorado.
Dr. Sapiano’s current work focuses on errors in merged satellite datasets and the transition of the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in an operational setting.
He has also been working on the validation of models and satellites.
“One of the things I’m trying to really understand is how numerical model estimates of precipitation can be used to enhance satellite estimates,” Sapiano said. “Within CICS, we frankly have a whole bunch of world leaders in satellite precipitation with considerable expertise, and this is a great place to be right now.”
Another element of his work focuses on implementing a precipitation climate data record of the GPCP. The monthly precipitation record is used by the climate community to understand variability and trends in precipitation.
He also works with Dr. Chris Brown, ESSIC visiting associate research scientist, on a research project which focuses on estimating changes in the timing of the annual cycle of phytoplankton blooms in oceans and relating that to underlying multi-year variability.
When not working, Dr. Sapiano enjoys cycling and spending time with friends and his two young sons.
“They take up nearly all of my free time, which is very rewarding,” Dr. Sapiano said. “This evening, I will be playing T-ball with three-year-olds. I’m really trying to teach [my son] life lessons.”
When he’s not spending time with his wife and sons, the rest of his time is spent riding his bicycle, watching sports – especially his two favorite MLB teams the Washington Nationals and the Colorado Rockies – following current affairs, reading the newspaper and visiting family and friends.
“[Since moving back the DC area] it’s been nice to see a lot of family,” Dr. Sapiano said, as his mother-in-law recently visited from Colorado and he recently visited his wife’s family in New York and Boston.
As if visiting New York and Boston weren’t enough to fill anyone’s appetite to travel, Dr. Sapiano said he will be traveling to Nashville, N.C. for a climate data records meeting at the end of July and to Brazil in October for a precipitation workshop.
But, he also plans to find time for enjoyment as he said his family will visit Denver, Co. in October for his brother-in-law’s wedding.