Dr Serra’s work focuses on the organization of convection in tropical and subtropical regions and the representation of this organization in numerical models. This work has included the study of easterly wave structure and tracks in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific, important for their role as the precursors to the majority of hurricanes in both the Atlantic and East Pacific basins. In addition, Dr. Serra studies how dynamic features such as tropical easterly waves and subtropical upper-level troughs, contribute to the organization and upscale growth of North American monsoon convection. More recently, Serra has been examining the role of Kelvin and westward inertial gravity waves on the initiation of deep convection over the Amazon.
Most of Dr. Serra’s work is done using global gridded data sets and satellite observations. However, Dr. Serra also has an interest in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) tropospheric precipitable water vapor measurements and their application to the study of deep convection. Dr. Serra and colleagues recently installed a network of GNSS sensors in northwest Mexico that has contributed to our understanding of the water vapor variability during the North American monsoon and shown promise for improving short-term forecasts of monsoon precipitation in this data sparse region. A similar GNSS transect will be installed in Costa Rica as part of a larger set of observations to better understand how easterly wave and low-level wind jet structures evolve across the region, which has a significant topographic barrier perpendicular to the prevailing winds disrupting atmosphere-ocean coupling and low-level atmospheric wave circulations between the Atlantic and Pacific basins
These areas of research contribute to the current understanding of regional water cycles and convective organization in tropical and semi-arid monsoon regions, with important consequences for operational forecasts on synoptic to seasonal time scales. In addition, Central America, the Caribbean and the southwestern United States are global hot spots for increased temperatures and reduced rainfall by the end of the century. Thus, understanding convective processes in these regions is of particular importance for both assessing the uncertainty in the model projections, as well as translating the impact of these projections to the local scale.