Dr Wasana Jayawardena - simulating weather and climate

Meet Dr. Wasana Jayawardena, the first female student to receive a PhD degree from the former ISP supported research group in Atmospheric Physics and Lightning in Sri Lanka.

Ever since her childhood Wasana Jayawardena has been fascinated by the atmosphere and knew she wanted to work with something related to nature. Today she has a PhD degree in Atmospheric Physics and is working with modelling the weather and climate; models that can be used to simulate the atmosphere for prediction of natural disasters and estimating air pollution levels in her home country Sri Lanka.
Wasana received her PhD in 2012 and has been a member of the ISP supported research group in Atmospheric Physics and Lightning at Colombo University in Sri Lanka for a long time. As the only researcher in the atmospheric modelling field in her country, she worked with the so-called Meteorological Institute Uppsala Model (MIUU) for atmospheric modelling, to simulate weather and climate. The model is not being used for operational weather forecasts in Sri Lanka yet, but she points to some interesting outcomes of the simulations.

- The model has been used to identify what influence the central mountain area in Sri Lanka has on local weather. The meso-scale weather is strongly influenced by the topology of the central mountain areas in the country. This is clearly demonstrated by the model simulations. The model has also been used to see how air pollution spreads with the wind and how high the pollution levels are in certain areas.

Wasana was the first female student to obtain a postgraduate degree from her research group at Colombo University. Wasana could continue to work and do research with the support of her husband, but points to that it is not always the case for women in Sri Lanka.

- Sri Lankan culture is preventing women to attend higher education. As a woman you cannot, for example, perform field work without permission from you parents or your husband, and most women give up their carriers after they get married.

When we meet, Wasana is about to leave Sweden and the Departmentof Earth Sciences at Uppsala University where she had a six-month Postdoc position through the Erasmus Mundus program. Her husband and daughter have been living with her in Sweden during this time but are ready to go back to Sri Lanka now.

- My family likes Sweden as much as I do, but they are looking forward to go back to warmer weather next week, she says and smiles.

Back in Sri Lanka, Wasana will continue to do research and teach at the Open University in Colombo.

Mars 2014

The research group in Atmospheric Physics and Lightning at University of Colombo received ISP support between 1978 and 2010.