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Mahesh Mundakkara Kovilakam (Contractor)

Title: Senior Research Scientist
Technical Focus Area: Chemistry & Dynamics
Mission/Project: SAGE III/ISS
Study Topics: Stratospheric Aerosols and their impact on climate, Remote sensing, In-situ measurements, Climate Dynamics, Climate Change and Variability


Mahesh earned his PhD from University of Wyoming in 2012 with a degree in Atmospheric Sciences. He completed his PhD under Prof. Terry Deshler with a dissertation titled “On the Accuracy of Stratospheric Aerosol Extinction and Surface Area Derived from in situ and Remote Measurements”. For the dissertation work, SAGE II aerosol extinction coefficient and surface area density data have been used as one of the main remote measurements for validation purpose. After the completion of PhD, Mahesh took a position as a postdoc researcher at UCR, where he worked with CMIP5 models to understand precipitation changes in the southwestern US. Prior to coming to Langley in 2017, Mahesh worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), working with Community Earth System Model (CESM) to understand the impact of aerosols on climate. While working at ORNL, Mahesh has gained experience in working with GCMs and high performance computing and conducted and analyzed experiments with CAM4 forced with BC distributions that have been modified to match the vertical profile of smoke derived from CALIPSO satellite measurements. Mahesh joined the SAGE III/ISS team in 2017. He worked on developing version 2.0 of Global space-based Stratospheric Aerosol climatology (GloSSAC). In version 2.0 of GloSSAC, SAGE III/ISS multi-wavelength aerosol extinction coefficient data has been incorporated.

Publication Bibliography:

Select Publications:

  • Thomason, L. W., Kovilakam, M., Schmidt, A., von Savigny, C., Knepp, T., and Rieger, L.: Evidence for the predictability of changes in the stratospheric aerosol size following volcanic eruptions of diverse magnitudes using space-based instruments, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 1143–1158,, 2021.
  • Kovilakam, M., Thomason, L., Ernest, N., Rieger, L., Bourassa, A., and Millan, L.: A Global Space-based Stratospheric Aerosol Climatology (Version 2.0): 1979-2018, Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss.,, accepted, 2020.
  • Deshler, T., B. Luo., M. Kovilakam., T. Peter., L. Kalnajs (2019) : Retrieval of aerosol size distributions from in situ particle counter measurements: instrument counting eciency and comparisons with satellite measurements., Journal of Geophysical Research- Atmospheres, 124,
  • Kovilakam, M., S. Mahajan, R. Saravanan, and P. Chang (2017): Climate impacts of CALIPSO-guided corrections to black carbon aerosol vertical distributions in a Global Climate Model, Geophysical Research Letters, 44,
  • Kovilakam, M., and S. Mahajan (2015): Black carbon aerosols induced Northern Hemisphere tropical expansion, Geophysical Research Letters, 42, 4964-4972,
  • Kovilakam, M., and T. Deshler (2015): On the accuracy of stratospheric aerosol extinction derived from in situ size distribution measurements and surface area density derived from remote SAGE II and HALOE extinction measurements, Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 120,
  • Allen R.J., J. R. Norris, and M. Kovilakam (2014): In uence of anthropogenic aerosols and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation on tropical belt width, Nature Geosci, 7,

Professional Memberships:

  • AGU
  • AMS

Education/Professional Experience:

  • University of Wyoming, WY, USA, Ph.D., Atmospheric Sciences, Aug. 2012 Advisor: Prof. T. Deshler
  • Senior Research Scientist, SSAI/NASA Langley Research Center, Sept. 2019-present 
  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA Langley Research Center, Sept. 2017-Aug. 2019 
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Computational Earth Sciences Group, Climate Change Science Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oct. 2014-Jul. 2017,  Postdoc
  • Department of Earth Sciences, University of California Riverside, Oct. 2012-Sep. 2014

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