Scorching heat and record cold. Prolonged droughts and flooding from heavy precipitation. Lightning storms that ignite wildfires.

At the Climate Extremes Laboratory at Washington State University Vancouver, Deepti Singh and her students are working to deepen the understanding of extreme weather events—both in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

Assistant Professor Deepti Singh (left) with members of the Climate Extremes Laboratory
Assistant Professor Deepti Singh (left) with members of the Climate Extremes Laboratory (Courtesy photo)

“As the climate warms, the probability of experiencing these record-breaking weather events increases,” says Singh, assistant professor in the School of the Environment. “They affect our food security, air quality, water supplies, and energy production. And weather-related disasters influence human migration patterns.”

In her early adult years, Singh witnessed how extreme weather can devastate communities.

She was living near Mumbai, India, in July 2005 when 37 inches of rain fell in the metro area over a 24-hour period. Flooding destroyed homes and damaged commercial buildings, railway tracks, and even airport runways. More than 1,000 people were killed and others were stranded when roads became impassable and public transportation shut down.

“In densely populated places, flooding of that magnitude is a perfect recipe for disaster,” Singh says. “People were stuck in their cars. Children couldn’t get home from school. The sewers overflowed, which led to outbreaks of waterborne illnesses.”

The experience influenced her decision to earn a doctorate in environmental earth system science, a pivot from her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering. “I wanted my work to be more relevant to creating climate-resilient societies and helping ensure peoples’ well-being—particularly those who are vulnerable or underserved,” Singh says.


Current research at the Climate Extremes Lab includes:

Atmospheric high-pressure systems. The 2021 heat dome in the Pacific Northwest was caused by a high-pressure system that blocked cooling maritime winds, allowing temperatures to soar. High pressure systems are often associated with heat and drought, but they can also cause extreme cold temperatures during Northwest winters. Postdoctoral researcher Xiaoyu Bai is leading research about the causes of atmospheric high-pressure systems in different seasons and detecting information in other parts of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans that can help predict these systems.

Dry lightning and wildfires. Thunderstorms and lightning are difficult to predict, and little research has been done on dry thunderstorms in the West, which are wildfire ignition sources. Doctoral student Dmitri Kalashnikov is studying how geography, meteorology, and other environmental factors in western states influence thunderstorms that don’t produce precipitation—both now and in the future under warmer climate scenarios.

Apples, staple crops, and climate. Climate variability and climate change are affecting agricultural production worldwide. Master’s student Shawn Preston is studying how weather conditions conducive to the production of apples and other tree fruits are changing. “We’re doing this study at the national level, but really digging into what’s happening in the Pacific Northwest since Washington is the nation’s largest producer of apples,” Singh says. Motivation for the work was driven by the 2021 heat dome and its impact on the state’s signature crop. Madhulika Gurazada, also a master’s student, is studying how growing rice, maize, and other traditional grains is affected by climate variations driven by periodic natural climate oscillations such as El Niño and La Niña.


Read more about hotter temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.