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Tanja Portele

Meet our Experts: Tanja Portele

Tanja is a researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, at their Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU) campus in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. She participates in Work Package 2 in CONFER.

Tell me a bit about your role at KIT/IMK-IFU

Coming from a research field high up in the atmosphere between 10 and 50 km altitude, I wanted to bring my research focus back to the lower atmosphere and the impact of weather on society and economy. I started my PhD at KIT/IMK-IFU in 2018 in the Regional Climate and Hydrology group and joined the research field of seasonal meteorological forecasts for water management in semi-arid regions. These forecasts provide information on weather conditions months in advance and can support sustainable use and management of water resources. However, at that time, decision makers in water management were still quite suspicious of seasonal forecasts, claiming a lack of reliability and the difficulties associated with their probabilistic nature. So, my focus was to bridge seasonal forecasts to final decision making by demonstrating their quality and, moreover, their economic benefits. In our team, we also implemented a regional refinement and bias correction method for seasonal forecasts and developed an online decision support tool for four semi-arid regions worldwide. In addition to seasonal forecasting, I have also entered the world of regional climate simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. In CONFER, I now bring it all together and run hydrologic simulations with the WRF-Hydro model to finally produce seasonal forecasts of streamflow and soil moisture. 

Why are you excited about the CONFER project and what do you think it could achieve?

The CONFER consortium brings together great partners with a lot of experience in the world of seasonal forecasting, hydrology, crop modeling, and climate services. Seasonal forecasts are becoming more and more highly appreciated tools in disaster risk reduction and climate mitigation strategies. My previous work already covered the Sudan and Ethiopia region and I am excited about expanding my work to the Greater Horn of Africa in close collaboration and co-production with the major regional center for climate prediction in East Africa, ICPAC. Bringing together all the previous experiences in the CONFER project can really make a big difference and help ICPAC with new technologies in its climate services. Especially the connection to the stakeholders and end users, and the special communication and dissemination of the scientific results and products are really the key to the success of the project and something I am very much looking forward to.

What is your specific role in CONFER?

My research focus in CONFER is hydrological modeling using WRF-Hydro. Our goal in CONFER is to create a prototype for hydrological forecasting applications that can be merged with existing products at ICPAC. To this end, I am working on improving hydrological forecasting by incorporating remotely sensed earth observation data as input to the WRF-Hydro model. Finally, I am investigating the performance of WRF-Hydro in seasonal streamflow forecasting for East Africa. With my atmospheric background, I also enjoy working closely together with the atmospheric group of the project.