Dr. Mika Tosca

An overview of my work

I am currently Assistant Professor of climate science at SAIC and an affiliate Research Scientist studying climate with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. My primary research aim is to quantify the impact of anthropogenic aerosols on cloud dynamics, radiative forcing, meteorology and climate (both regional and global).

I participated in the ORACLES field campaign in Swakopmund, Namibia in summer 2016 and will be heading back in 2017 and 2018 to organize the internship/shadowing program. I also participated in the SEAC4RS field campaign in the southeastern US in 2013.

My work was featured as a NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day!

Recent Work

Using temporally spaced, yet spatially coincident satellite and meteorological data I was able to show that anthropogenic fire aerosols in tropical Africa inhibited convective processes (i.e. rainfall) via solar absorption. This result was the first time aerosol-driven changes in cloud dynamics were resolved using observations.

This work suggests the existence of a positive feedback loop between fire and convection (see figure to the right)

This study was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, as a follow-up to a study in J. Geophysical Research.

A press release was issued by JPL and NASA.

This was also featured as a NASA EO "Image of the Day", and in a non-science article written for the online publication The Conversation.


FIGURE: Tosca et al., "Human-caused fires limit convection in tropical Africa: First temporal observations and attribution", Copyright 2015 American Geophysical Union.

Current Work

I am currently a Co-Investigator on an ACCDAM proposal (through 2017) funded to examine trends and relationships between aerosols, clouds, precipitation and temperature in the southeastern United States. In the summer of 2013 a team of scientists from across the world participated in a field campaign, based in Houston, TX. Our aircraft instrument - AirMSPI - flew on the ER-2 for two months (August-September) taking high-resolution radiometric and polarimetric imagery of clouds and aerosols.

I am currently looking at trends in temperature and aerosol burden (at various atmospheric levels) in the SEUS and how the two may be related.

The image below shows how aerosol burden has changed throughout the atmospheric column (using CALIPSO lidar retrievals) between 2007 and 2014 (this figure is published in the article linked here).

Beginning in summer 2016 (and continuing through 2018), I will participating in a new field campaign based in Walvis Bay, Namibia, where a team of NASA scientists will be observing the interaction of biomass burning aerosols and clouds in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

MISR Interactive Explorer

An example of MINX output for a smoke plume in Alaska during July 2004.

I am the current science administrator of the MISR Interactive Explorer (MINX) software program, developed here at JPL by David Nelson. MINX uses stereo imaging techniques to determine the height of aerosol and cloud features above the Earth surface. MINX is available for free download here:


This summer, myself and two summer interns (shoutout to my great interns Matt and Robert!) have been busy digitizing all available biomass burning smoke plumes for 2010. We intend to publish our results after validation with CALIPSO, in ESSD sometime in early 2016.