William H. Greenberg Fellowship Awards

Nelun Fernando

Ph.D in Geography, Concentration in Climatology
Dissertation Research: Predicting and monitoring drought in the humid tropics: a case study on Sri Lanka

Dr. Nelun Fernando developed a method for predicting and monitoring drought. Although it was developed for the island nation of Sri Lanka, the method is applicable to locations throughout the humid tropics where droughts occur due to insufficient rain during the monsoon rainy season. During the main rice cultivation seasons—the Maha, extending from October to March—drought can be predicted by forecasting the failure of two different rainfall regimes. Nelun's research showed that rainfall in October and November is inhibited when there are unusually strong westerly winds 1.5 km above the surface of the earth . Later in the season, from December through February, the rains that accompany the northeast monsoon will be abnormally weak when wind shear (the change of wind direction with height) is small. Nelun also found that monitoring an index of vegetation temperature derived from two satellite sensors—the Terra-MODIS Land Surface Temperature and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index products—is capable of providing near real-time monitoring of moisture stress during the Maha season.

Nelun is extremely grateful for the Greenberg Fellowship noting that, "It gave me the opportunity to engage full time on my dissertation research shortly after I reached candidacy and enabled me to finish the Ph.D. degree program within four years. " Nelun and the bond she has developed with Mrs. Greenberg, was featured in the Fall 2010 edition of pdf Rutgers Magazine .