A conversation with Laura Caciagli

She has come a long way since they used to call her “Montagne Verdi”, ever animated by curiosity and the desire to understand. An interview with Paola Mercogliano, who thinks that the most beautiful moment for a researcher is always the one that has yet to come.

What’s your job at the CMCC Foundation?
I am the Director of the REMHI Division, which deals with regional models and hydrogeological impacts; we assess climate change and its correlated impacts on regional, local and urban scale, while evaluating the effects of climate change and anthropogenic pressure on the hydrogeological hazards, such as landslides, floods and droughts.

Which road led you to CMCC?
A very long and meandering road, which brought me to study almost all fluids: water, air, and both combined fluids when I began studying the atmosphere.
I have a Master Degree in Physics from the University of Naples “Federico II” and a Master in Computational Fluid Dynamics for Industrial Application and University Research from the Research Centre for advanced studies of Sardinia (C.R.S.4). I worked at FIAT Research Center based in Orbassano (TO) and at ARPA Piedmont as weather forecaster and analyst.
My collaboration with the CMCC Foundation and C.I.R.A. started in 2005, after winning a 1 year fellowship at the Earth Simulator Centre (E.S.C.) in Yokohama (Japan). Since that moment I’ve dealt with regional climate models and high resolution impact models.

Is your current job the one you had dreamed of when you were a child?
No, but considering my great passion for the environment I should have known. When I was 16 years old I was already a committed environmentalist; at school they used to call me “Montagne verdi” (“Green mountains”). I remember that I fought to have a school magazine made of recycled paper in a period when there was little money available for these kind of projects.
Above all, I was fascinated by the idea of understanding things since I was a child and I think that all my choices in life have been curiosity-driven. When I enrolled in Physics I didn’t know which course of studies to choose. Then there was an earthquake in the Umbria region* (in 1997-98, editor’s note), and I had the sensation that the phenomenon was not fully understood. So, I decided to study these issues: I entered the University of Naples to study Geophysics, discussing a thesis on Bradyseism, a typical phenomenon of the area of Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei), near Naples.

Could you tell us the most beautiful moment in your life as CMCC researcher?
I would say the best is yet to come! I think in fact that the most beautiful moment for a researcher is always the one that has yet to come. However, in particular I would like to mention the publication of our two papers on climate simulations and projections over Italy (including seasonal patterns and extremes); it is an important recognition after many years of hard work and sacrifice, and I’ve never been more proud of my research team.

What’s on your workstation?
The chaos. You can find everything on my desk! The telephone directory (I am always on the phone) and the post-it notes with the memorable quotes of the young people working with me are the things that never miss on my workstation. I like to remember and treasured their epiphanies and Pindaric flights.

What’s the ritual never missing in your work day?
The coffee in the morning with all my research team just arrived in the office. Ten minutes in which we talk about everything, from work to soccer, that are essential to put me in a good mood to address my work day.

How do you travel to work?
By car listening to the radio. I like listening to music, but above all I like listening programs focused on current news and recent events, such as “Il ruggito del coniglio”, the press review by Radio Radicale or the “Live from Parliament”. I like to be up-to-date with what happened around the world on my way to work.

What do you do in your spare time?
I have been playing tennis for many years, but at the moment I have no time for this activity. Now I watch films, I love cinema. During the week end I like also making cakes (If I had had to choose, I would have like to be a patissier!). As a matter of principle, I never use recipes, but my cakes are very good anyway.

Cinema or literature: give me a title and explain to me your choice
“Ricomincio da tre” by Massimo Troisi. It’s a brilliant, delicate, ironic, never aggressive film. I like very much the proposed approach to address life. Moreover, I love the idea of starting “from three” at the base of the film: the main character wants to change his life, but he said to himself “I want to start again but from three and not completely from scratch”, that is he wants to save the good things he has done in the past. And so do I, I fully agree with this way of seeing life.

Look at Paola’s photogallery on the CmccClimate Facebook page.

The papers published by P. Mercogliano and her team on climate simulations and projections over Italy:
Hochman A. Bucchignani E., Gershtein G., Krichak S.O., Alpert P., Levi Y., Yosef Y., Carmona Y., Breitgand J., Mercogliano P., Zollo A. L.
Evaluation of regional COSMO-CLM climate simulations over the Eastern Mediterranean for the period 1979–2011
2017, International Journal of Climatology, DOI: 10.1002/joc.5232,

Vezzoli R., Mercogliano P., Pecora S., Zollo A. L. , Cacciamani C.
Hydrological simulation of Po River (North Italy) discharge under climate change scenarios using the RCM COSMO-CLM
2015, Science of The Total Environment, vol.521-522, pp 346-358, DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.03.096