Reto Knutti knows than physics isn’t enough

Reto Knutti. Photo credit: Valérie Chételat, used by permission of ETH Zurich.

Reto Knutti and I are both interested in cake. Reto, as an analogy for the problems society faces when trying to divide up the allowable carbon emissions among historically greedy and newly desirous consumers. Me, because I love cake (ok, it’s also a great analogy). Continue reading →

The many careers of Piers Sellers

I first heard of Piers Sellers some time in the mid-1990s, on a trip to the southern BOREAS field site when I was in my master’s program at the University of Montana. The talk was something on the order of “… have you heard? Piers is entering the astronaut program!” which, at the time, came as a complete non-sequitur to me. Why would someone at the peak of an influential scientific career at NASA choose to walk away?

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Lixin Wu and the rising tide of Chinese oceanography

I met Lixin Wu when I was at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao for a writing workshop (now called Nature Masterclasses). Several things impressed me about Lixin right away. First, he’s a lot of fun to be around and equally at ease in formal situations and banquets. Then, he’s clearly an inspiration to his staff and colleagues. Finally, he has big visions for his own science, the OUC, and Chinese marine science in general.

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Amy Clement questions the core ideas of climate dynamics

Essentially from the start of her career, Amy Clement has been interested in the big ideas in atmospheric dynamics. But she’s also continually raised questions and proposed her own sometimes controversial ideas.

Amy Clement
Credit: UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

El Niño is fundamentally linked to atmosphere-ocean interactions? Maybe not. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation drives the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation? Again, maybe not. Continue reading →

Lauren Andrews on glacial hydrology and field work in Greenland

Lauren Andrews has done some of the most interesting work I’ve seen on subglacial hydrology — as a grad student, and with a degree of independence that would be unusual in most any PhD.

Credit: Joseph MacGregor
Credit: Joseph MacGregor

Lauren grew up in a scientific/agricultural household: her father was a groundwater hydrologist but the family also ran a small farm, with a range of animals. Lauren was active in 4-H, an organization that promotes (among other things) individual responsibility and organization, skills that came into play during Lauren’s time on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

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Gavin Schmidt on the evolution, testing and discussion of climate models

gavin schmidt nasa giss
Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Gavin Schmidt runs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and develops, pokes, prods, tears down, builds up, and talks about talking about climate models. He also considered opening a child care center at GISS, but thought better of it. Continue reading →

Greg Jones on inventing the field of wine-climate interactions

Greg Jones is one of the foremost authorities on wine – climate interactions. I started hearing about  Greg some time in the late 1990s, when Rama Nemani, one of my friends from the University of Montana, went out to NASA Ames for a year. Rama got interested in remote sensing of vineyards and then climate-wine interactions. Somehow we all started talking, and a few years later this led to a paper in Climate Research. Greg and I continued to work together off and on for years, including a feature in Nature Geoscience soon after I started at Nature. Continue reading →

Surabi Menon on aerosols and working in a climate foundation

If you’re a frequent reader of Nature’s Career section, you’ll have seen a lot of content on various aspects of non-traditional scientific careers (for example, conversations with Nobel Laureate Eric Betzig, a Q&A on transitioning from academia to industry, an editorial on life after academia, and a feature on why top academic prospects might pursue other opportunities). Continue reading →

Bjorn Stevens on the philosophy of climate modeling

In love with Maxwell

Bjorn Stevens has a lot going on: scientific member of the Max Planck Society, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, head of the department Atmosphere and the Earth System, professor at the University of Hamburg, lead author of an IPCC AR 5 Chapter 7, co-lead of a WCRP Grand Challenge on Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity. All of these roles don’t come as much of a surprise, once you get your head around the degree to which Bjorn manages to combine a deep scientific enthusiasm with big vision, an in-the-trenches grasp of details, a willingness to take risks, and an inspirational leadership style.

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Mat Collins on climate models and El Nino

Understanding climate models

If you’ve heard about any climate cycle, it’s probably the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. 2015/2016 is looking like it might bring a record El Niño, and media coverage is, for climate, pretty remarkable.

The coverage is understandable, as weird things happen during big El Niños. The eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is anomalously warm during boreal winter. Deep convection moves away from the Western Pacific Warm Pool, and other bits of the climate system tend to shift to unusual states.

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