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NASA Scientist Christian Braneon Receives AXA Award for Climate Science

Dr. Christian Braneon, who works for SciSpace LLC at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York City, is one of four winners of the AXA Award for Climate Science.

Photo of Dr. Christian Braneon

Dr. Christian Braneon (Image Credit: Columbia University Earth Institute)

The mission of the Research Fund of AXA, a global insurance company, is to support outstanding researchers committed to contributing to global societal challenges related to Life & Health, Data & Technology, Climate & Environment, and Economics. He is the only U.S. winner in the Climate Science category.

The award was given in recognition of the four winners’ contribution to the understanding of climate change and related adaptation strategies. Dr. Braneon’s award was specifically for his contribution to understanding climate change impacts on urban, agriculture and natural systems as well as climate justice.

“My research and professional practice focus on climate variability, climate adaptation and their intersection with environmental justice,” Braneon said. “I use systems approaches to assess climate change impacts on urban, agricultural, and natural environments. I chose this field of research because climate change is likely to exacerbate existing inequality.”

In January 2021, the AXA Research Fund issued a call for nominations that resulted in four outstanding scientists selected by the Fund’s independent Scientific Board. The four Awardees are respectively working on advancing the understanding of climate evolution, informing the predictability of occurrence and impact of extreme weather events such as heat waves and storms, describing and mitigating the effects of climate change on inequalities, and promoting more resilient and fairer societies that are better prepared to face future global changes.

Dr. Braneon is a climate scientist and civil engineer who co-leads urban research at the Climate Impacts Group of NASA GISS. He serves as a visiting professor at Barnard College and co-leads the Environmental Justice and Climate Just Cities Network at The Earth Institute of Columbia University.

His primary research, conducted as part of the NASA-Microsoft partnership, has developed applications of remote sensing data that enhance resilience to urban heat stress. This partnership is one of a series of collaborations between NASA’s Earth Science Division and non-traditional public and private organizations to improve the application of Earth observation data for societal benefits.

Dr. Braneon’s work covers many areas in climate science. His agricultural research focuses on using measured agricultural water use along with geostatistical techniques, crop models, and general circulation modeling to assess irrigation demand and the uncertainty associated with demand projections at spatial scales relevant to water resources management. This research has informed the regional water planning in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin shared by Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.

In 2013, he developed an approach for integrating climate change projections into the City of Dallas’s Long Range Water Supply Plan. Dr. Braneon’s research team at GISS uses publicly available archives of satellite imagery and open-source software to evaluate the cooling effects of green infrastructure.

Dr. Braneon is particularly known for integrating satellite data and climate science into urban planning and civil engineering practice. Recently, he advised the New York City Council’s Data Operations Unit on their data science strategy as they integrated Landsat 8 satellite imagery into their temperature mapping initiatives. He is also advising the City of Chicago Department of Public Health as it integrates satellite data into an air quality focused dashboard in development. Dr. Braneon is currently a co-investigator on a research project that will produce new data products, providing new information and insights on the role of coastal marshes in the global carbon and nutrient cycles.

Media Contact

Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., 301-286-4044

This article was originally prepared as a NASA Goddard feature.

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