As a climate scientist, I study the physics, dynamics, and impacts of the Earth’s changing climate system. I’m especially interested in how global warming is affecting the character and causes of regional climate extremes—including the atmospheric phenomena responsible for droughts and floods. My research embraces “climate complexity” by accounting for the nuanced spatial and temporal characteristics of our planet’s response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. I also work to understand linkages between different elements of the integrated Earth system, and how changing conditions in the global tropics and polar regions may be affecting climate across the American West.
Some of my recent efforts have focused on the broader climate context of California’s recent multi-year drought. A key focus has been upon understanding the causes of persistent regions of atmospheric high pressure (such as the infamous “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge“), which tend to disrupt the Pacific storm track and push winter storms away from California.
My ongoing work seeks to understand the changing character of California precipitation in a warming world–and whether the Pacific Southwest can expect increased “climate whiplash” in the 21st century. Since flood and drought risk along the West Coast of North America is largely dependent on the overabundance (or absence) of concentrated water vapor plumes known as “atmospheric rivers,” much of my current work centers on understanding variations and trends in these sometimes dramatic atmospheric phenomena.
Science Communication and Outreach
I author the Weather West blog, which provides real-time perspectives on California and western North American weather, climate, and regional change. I also engage extensively with journalists and other partners to facilitate scientifically informed yet broadly accessible media coverage surrounding climate change and other scientific topics. In addition to giving frequent interviews to print, radio, television, and web media outlets, I also review existing news articles for climate-related accuracy as part of the Climate Feedback team.
Our researchers are investigating the effects of climate change on heavy precipitation events in the state. Specifically, we're focusing on atmospheric rivers, moisture-laden filaments of air that move across oceans and produce heavy precipitation when they make landfall. Understanding how atmospheric rivers are affected in a changing climate is key to smart water planning in the future.