Daniel Swain, PhD

NatureNet Postdoctoral Fellow

Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Center for Climate Science

LaKretz Hall, Suite 300
619 Charles E Young Dr. E
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Weather West/California Weather Blog


Research Focus
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.

A simulated “atmospheric river” storm makes landfall along the West Coast. (Adapted from Swain et al. 2015)

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. In addition to serving as a climate and weather science liaison to print, radio, television, and web media outlets, I also review existing news articles for scientific accuracy as part of the Climate Feedback team.


Full curriculum vitae available here.



The Future of Extreme Precipitation in California

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.


Characterizing the spatial scales of extreme daily precipitation in the United States

D. Touma, A.M. Michalak, D.L. Swain, N.S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2018 | Journal of Climate

Increasing precipitation volatility in twenty-first-century California

D.L. Swain, B. Langenbrunner, J.D. Neelin, and A. Hall

Published Work | 2018 | Nature Climate Change

Remote linkages to anomalous winter atmospheric ridging over the northeastern Pacific

D.L. Swain, D. Singh, D.E. Horton, J.S. Mankin, T.C. Ballard, N.S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2017 | Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Quantifying the influence of global warming on unprecedented extreme climate events

N. S. Diffenbaugh, D. Singh, J. S. Mankin, A. Charland, D. E. Horton, M. Haugen, D .L. Swain, B. Rajaratnam, D. Touma

Published Work | 2017 | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Recent Amplification of the North American Winter Temperature Dipole

D. Singh, D. L. Swain, J. S. Mankin, D. E. Horton, L. N. Thomas, B. Rajaratnam, N. S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2016 | Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Trends in Atmospheric Patterns Conducive to Seasonal Precipitation and Temperature Extremes in California

D. L. Swain, D.E. Horton, D. Singh, N. S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2016 | Science Advances

Evaluation of Non-hydrostatic Simulations of Northeast Pacific Atmospheric Rivers and Comparison to In-situ Observations

D.L. Swain, B. Lebassi-Habtezion, N.S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2015 | Monthly Weather Review

Anthropogenic Warming has Increased Drought Risk in California

N.S. Diffenbaugh, D.L. Swain, D. Touma

Published Work | 2015 | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Contribution of Changes in Atmospheric Circulation Patterns to Extreme Temperature Trends

D.E. Horton, N.C. Johnson, D. Singh, D.L. Swain, B. Rajaratnam, N.S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2015 | Nature

The Extraordinary California Drought of 2013-2014: Character, Context, and the Role of Climate Change

D.L. Swain, M. Tsiang, M. Haugen, D. Singh, A. Charland, B. Rajaratnam, N.S. Diffenbaugh

Published Work | 2014 | Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society