Timely forecasting of weather has become a basic necessity of our day to day life due to the increasing frequency of cyclones, hurricanes, coastal inundation and other catastrophic weather events.

Nitin Patil (PhD), our next pathbreaker, Computational Meteorologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, works on HPC (High Performance Computing) applications that benchmark performance of Earth systems and Climate models on next-generation technologies.

Nitin talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the significance of HPC systems in Meteorology and their growing usage by meteorologists, weather forecasters and climate scientists to improve forecast accuracy, simulate weather patterns, and provide better early warning of impending natural disasters.

For students, Computational Meteorology is a fascinating area that blends Atmospheric Sciences with High Performance Computing technologies that can quickly process vast amounts of information (Big Data) and build efficient climate models that help study climate change.

Nitin, tell us about your background?

I grew up in Jalgaon, a district in the northern part of Maharashtra, India, where I finished high school before my dreams and career took me to different places. However, my parents never forced me to study or score based on comparison to others. Though I was a fairly average student academically, I was an ever-curious child who studied purely to learn new topics. I had decided to pursue science but hadn’t decided on what career I wanted to pursue. I was always under the impression that whatever I do in my career will make my family feel proud. My suggestions to all of the students is to always pursue your own interests and not follow others.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I completed B.Sc. and M.Sc. (Electronics) from M.J. College, Jalgaon and Modern college, Pune and later joined Department of Atmospheric and Space Sciences, University of Pune and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology to study M.Tech. in Atmospheric Sciences. After spending two years doing my M.Tech, I joined PhD in Climate Studies at IIT Bombay, Mumbai, where my interest was to study Aerosol influences on cloud properties and rainfall processes in the South Asian monsoon region: Observational and Global Circulation Model (GCM) modelling studies. Additionally, I have also gained technical knowledge of executing and performing climate modelling studies on High-Performance Computing (HPC) systems.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

I always enjoyed science education focused on carrying scientific work. Atmospheric Sciences involves all the basic science subjects such as maths, physics, environmental science, statistics, physical geography, computer science, as well as climate change and electronics. Electronics becomes important from the hardware point-of-view. HPC systems are widely used for computational work and instruments to collect real time observational data.

I became fascinated with the world of technology. During my PhD, I learnt how science and technology come together to solve the most complex problems and help speedup research. Later, I combined my interest in weather and climate science with the computational power of HPC systems by pursuing a career in the role of “Computational Meteorologist”.

Tell us about your career path

In my PhD, my problem statement was to study Aerosol influences on cloud properties and rainfall processes in the South Asian monsoon region: Observational and Global Circulation Model (GCM) modelling studies. To do modelling studies we need to use simulations/output generated from weather and climate models run by HPC systems. 

During my PhD, I got an opportunity to use a lot of my scientific and technical skills. I also believe that the logical and analytical thinking that we use during research also develops with science, which helps in giving us a better direction. I was recognized nationally and internationally for my PhD work at IIT Bombay. During my PhD, I extended my professional and technical skills by interacting and working with senior people in my domain which ultimately led to me working in Science and Technology to study challenging research/complex problems in my area of research. That’s where HPC (High Performance Computing) comes into play.

How did you get your first break?

My first break was getting admission in the PhD program of Climate Studies at IIT Bombay. This break helped me choose my future path and goals.

Regarding my career after PhD, my work on HPC systems, along with my meteorology fundamentals and programming skills, which i widely used during my PhD, helped me get into the industry.

What were the challenges you faced in your career? How did you address them?

Everyone is aware that there is no life without challenges. We face challenges on a daily basis, but the solution to address them all depends on how we think, though sometimes it was really hard to manage them. First of all, to address the challenges, it is essential to separate our professional life from personal life and think positively by keeping our mind calm.

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

Currently, I am working as an Application Specialist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Bangalore, India. To put it in a nutshell, I am working on HPC applications to benchmark performance of Earth system and Climate models on recent and next-generation technologies.

A Computational Meteorologist plays an important role in building weather and climate models that are optimized to run on HPC systems in an efficient way. We also perform scientific validation of output simulated by these models against reference output available such as observations or already validated models. We also try to improve the models by using our knowledge of Meteorology. Relevant courses or degrees in Atmospheric sciences or Meteorology helps in our work. Additionally, there is a lot of technical work like programming using linux based systems and scripting. 

Our consumers could be from any part of the world, like private/govt/space/academic sectors who use the HPC systems for weather/climate research. HPC systems are now widely used by meteorologists or forecasters or climate scientists to improve the forecasts accuracy, simulate weather patterns, and provide better early warning for cyclones, hurricanes, other catastrophic weather events and to study climate change.

How does your work benefit society? 

There is a growing need to use science and technology in different ways to solve complex problems that we face every day. Therefore, HPC systems play an important role in weather and climate research by allowing scientists to build complex models for research purposes. In particular, benchmarking and optimizing these models for next-generation technologies in a more efficient way with improved forecast accuracy and weather prediction is also a challenge. More precise weather forecasting and better climate modeling will benefit the society and I think HPC will play an important role in achieving these goals. And that is basically my area of interest.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Students have their own rights to decide their own careers, but it is always important to work on what is interesting to you, and be sincere in whatever you do, because that’s the only way to do things right. Always keep learning and keep updating yourself in the subject of interest, because this will play a major role in your growth.

Future Plans?

I am currently focused on my specialty in Earth System Sciences, Weather and Climate Modeling and High Performance Computing domain. I love research and I am fascinated by topics that are ahead of time. I believe in going with the flow.