Ruby Leung of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been named a Battelle Fellow — the highest recognition from Battelle for leadership and accomplishment in science. She is one of eight Battelle fellows at PNNL.
Leung is an expert on some of the most basic processes that influence our planet and make it habitable – how the energy that flows from the sun is distributed through the atmosphere, why rain and snow fall where they do, how everyday processes like agriculture and drought on one continent can affect the weather on land across the ocean, and how specific regions of the world are affected differently by an ever-varying climate.
Her insights that changing climate conditions globally translate to very different consequences in distinct regions of the planet have resulted in important information for planning and opened up exciting new topics for other scientists. For instance, under warmer temperatures, some regions are expected to suffer more drought while other regions will experience floods more often — an example of the type of variation appreciated more fully thanks to Leung's research.
Much of her current research focuses on the interactions of atmospheric processes and global water cycles. She has explored the factors that lead to a healthy snowpack in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and northern California, which provides water for the regions' summers and for agriculture. She has worked with colleagues around the globe to understand the formation of typhoons in the Pacific and has identified reasons why the powerful storms are strengthening. And she has helped discover the important role that powerful forces known as atmospheric rivers play in certain regions, including California.
Her impact has gone far beyond the specific findings she has produced and documented through more than 200 scientific publications. She has been a contributor or leader of many international teams of scientists mapping out future directions and studying issues of atmospheric science, climate and water resources, including DOE's Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy project, the science steering committee for the Community Earth System Model, the NOAA Science Advisory Board Climate Working Group, and DOE's Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee.
She has played a central role in the laboratory's climb to a research powerhouse in the realm of atmospheric sciences, and she connected many young scientists with opportunities that have helped launch their careers.
"This is an honor perfectly befitting a scientist like Ruby, who has contributed so much to our scientific understanding of earth systems," said Steven Ashby, director of PNNL. "Her contributions extend beyond her research studies; she has helped to form the nation's approach to important challenges and has spurred other scientists to focus on significant questions as well."
Leung has been recognized widely for her achievements, most recently through election to the National Academy of Engineering earlier this year. She is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences.
Leung earned a bachelor's degree in physics and statistics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, then taught high school for two years before earning a master's degree and a doctorate in atmospheric science from Texas A&M University. She joined the laboratory in 1989, completing her research dissertation and then joining the staff as a research associate in 1991.