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Celebrate Sandra Yuter: An Inspiring Female Atmospheric Scientist Who Motivates Us With Her Career Path & Advocacy for Climate Understanding

Just in time to coordinate with COP27, the global climate change conference, I was almost giddy to host a world-class climate/atmospheric expert on my Ladies Who Lunch Conversations Facebook videocast with someone I’d been so keen to talk to: Dr. Sandra Yuter ~ or Sandra, as she asked me to refer to her.  (I am so respectful of honorifics, that it’s a challenge for me not to employ them.) 

In our Conversation, you’ll learn about her personal journey to becoming a weather and climate scientist.

But if you don’t know an atmospheric scientist from an ecologist, I’m here to also introduce you to this most auspicious, propitious field by way of Sandra, a specialist who studies and predicts conditions to better understand the earth’s atmosphere, climate patterns, forecast weather and its effects, including lightning, air pollution.  

This is truly a timely, topical, fascinating Conversation. It affects our food supply, water resources, transportation, construction. And well, everything. 

Though, I couldn’t help but wonder, are we running out of time? 

Together, let’s explore ~ We don’t have a moment to waste.

I learned from Dr. Yuter, ahem, Sandra, according to her bio: growing up on Long Island, she loved to go on field trips—she learned about how glaciers had shaped the environment around her and was fascinated by how the resulting landscape still told the history of its geological past. The combination of scientific exploration and imagination that these field trips offered was something Sandra also drew to science fiction.”

Ahhh, curiosity and discovery… The hallmarks of inspiration and innovation. 

When I worked at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, it gave me no small amount of pleasure to tell those I was giving a garden tour to as we got to the entrance of the Rock Garden, that the glaciers terminus was here in Brooklyn ~ (next to Sandra’s glacier-filled Long Island) ~ making this truly a rock garden!  

Sandra has turned her interest in science into a career; she is now a distinguished professor at the department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University; Faculty Fellow of the Center for Geospatial Analytics is no less astonishing when you think about it.

According to her bio: Sandra uses geospatial analytics to distill information on weather and climate to address basic and applied science questions related to shallow marine clouds, winter storms and other weather systems.

Her CV is more than 11 pages!  I was gobsmacked, impressed, and humbled, of course.

I was particularly curious to learn how this brilliant woman became a scientist, especially in an era that didn’t really encourage women to even study science, much less help them to forge a career path.

As you’ll hear and see in the LWLC videocast, Sandra enthusiastically cites her parents as her inspiring boosters.  You can almost hear them admonishing, “Go for it!” I love that she too, used to do the science of the month projects. And had a lab in the basement.  She tells us how her path in science was “not a straight line!”

Sandra shared how she navigated the worlds of corporate science and then on to academia. 


In our fascinating Conversation, we discussed her early experiences doing science in the private sector, including at a defense contracting company before grad school, her work in solar geoengineering, the role of the private sector in climate and weather science, and more.

For anyone motivated to pursue a career in this all-important and burgeoning field, she offers wise counsel and insightful anecdotes. 

We learned that Sandra has made important advances on a wide range of meteorological problems, including the structure, dynamics, and cloud microphysics of deep convection in the tropics; shallow stratocumulus-topped boundary layers; and winter storms in the extratropics. Wow ~ I’m woozy just considering it all! 

RADAR EXAMPLES Images from Sandra Yuter, NCSU Frederic Fabry, McGill  University Weatherworld 2010, University of Illinois Robin Hogan,  University of Reading. - ppt download

Her research uses measurements made by remote sensors, including radar, satellite, and lidar, (I am definitely gonna’ need to tap into her knowledge on lidar as it plays a big part for the protagonist in the YA novel I’m writing. You could say that the environment is a main character). 

She’s also conducted in-situ measurements to understand processes in the atmosphere, especially those related to clouds and precipitation. 

As an homage to her work and those clouds, I created a tablescape with ~ drumroll please ~ billowing clouds! 

Along with other atmospheric elements, including beautiful, artful barometers, our book, Thunder & Lightening: Weather Past, Present, Future, my celestial navigation guide that my father got for me on one of my trips to the Hayden Planetarium (I keep it above my desk where I can think of him and shoot for the stars…). It was a fun and interesting table design that helped tell this climate story. I’ll share the look at the end of this Post with a video.


Sandra noted in an email to me before the videocast: “Something that may be of interest to your viewers, is how we have been computing statistics of the climate change that has already occurred based on historical hourly weather observations.” 

Climate change is often described in terms of averages,” Sandra said, “But how this works in terms of warming during the summer versus during the winter varies depending on location.

For example, for Raleigh, NC since the late 1970s there are about the equivalent of 10 days worth of hours less of temperatures less than freezing (32 deg F) and about 7 days worth of hours more of temperatures > 86 deg F (which is a threshold for moderate heat stress).” 

Sure enough, you’ll hear about those stats in our videocast Conversation. 

It’s rather scary but important to know… Especially for us garden designers, gardeners and horticulturists. 

I had asked Sandra to address this part of climate change because I can see it and experience in my garden design and horticulture work. 

There’s a marked distinction with regard to what can grow in our zone from what had been the case when i started doing this joyful work.  I’ve also observed the increase in insects that heretofore were abuzz further away ~ as in far away regions or even distant countries.

And I thought that this particular element would resonate or hit home with those who think climate issues are not impacting their world.  Just think about this: I read that at that 2 degree climate target ~ if not met, more than 10K plant species would lose half their habitat.  

No more living in a bubble… It’s not magical thinking.

Sandra offered, “We do have some preliminary work related to looking at the climate change that has already happened since the 1970s based on hourly temperature records.

The trends in the number of hours < 32 deg F (i.e. winter getting warmer) are faster than the trends in summer getting warmer. 

This has ramifications for overwintering of insect pests and plant growing seasons but we are just at the start of this research.”

Maybe this helps explain my anguished situation of a killer aphid infestation this past drought-ridden, hotter-than-hell summer! Despite all my efforts, it’s been gut-wrenching. 

Enough about me. (But it is a case in point.) 

Just to brag on Sandra, I found this in her bio and thought you’d be as impressed as I am: “Methodologically, Sandra’s work has contributed to the algorithms used to retrieve precipitation from satellite measurements, and to the diagnostic methods used to infer physical processes in precipitating clouds from radar observations. As one particularly prominent example, the contoured frequency by altitude diagram, or CFAD, that she conceived more than 25 years ago is now a standard and widely used diagnostic.”

In our Conversation, Sandra shares some tips on how to pursue a career in this increasingly important field and how better to understand and plan for climate change ~ whether in our gardens, in agriculture, in aggressive storm management, or in transportation ~ climate science touches just about everything…

Will business lead the way?

Is there a hopeful way forward for our warming planet?

Images like this from our recent Metrohort meeting showing the flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy in NYC’s Battery area:

And the the marking on the street lights as to where the experts believe the water will rise to by 2050 (16 feet) was met with gasps: 

I asked Sandra if she would, ahem, offer a forecast for the climate situation.

She suggested a very pragmatic, thoughtful reply: “I think atmospheric science has done a really good job of explaining but maybe we’re not the solution, maybe the solution is more on the engineering side, and partly, that’s just building buildings that are more resilient, or moving infrastructure, or figuring out how to do carbon capture in a scalable way, or investing in fusion.” 

Please enjoy my Conversation with Sandra Yuter, a world-class Atmospheric Scientist at my Facebook page Ladies Who Lunch Conversations

You can Follow too, please. I’ve had the distinct honor of hosting so many inspiring Ladies. 

As I mentioned, this is truly a timely, topical, fascinating Conversation.

Sandra is a Lady I admire so much. In addition to all her atmospheric wisdom,  we learned her favorite cocktail is a botanical one! 

I hope that more women can follow her inspiring lead.

Thank you so very much, Dr. Yuter. (wink)

Here is the spooky climate change tablescape video tour. Cheers!


  • Thank you for your supportive feedback. So happy you enjoyed the interview with Sandra ~ she is indeed a most inspiring leader who helps us all understand climate and weather & world ever so much better. Women in Science are so cool, don't you agree? Thank you

  • Anonymous

    Another great interview. Great to hear entrepreneurs efforts paying off with a very cool product. 🍋🍋

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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