Seeking a better understanding of how moist convection, radiation, and the general circulation of Earth’s atmosphere are coupled to each other is the general theme of my research. Most recently I have studied how convective systems respond to different forcing conditions and the resultant influence on the flux of energy through the Earth system. These systems and their response to changing environments are important because they have been shown to be the largest source of uncertainty in current climate models. The science of Earth’s atmosphere provides fertile ground for research because of how many different fields it overlaps with.
My current research at Princeton University is primarily concerned with the role of clouds in our climate system. At the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory I am responsible for the execution of the Cloud Feedback Model Intercomparison Project (CFMIP) as part of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). The delicate balance between the warming effects (through absorption and re-emission of radiation) and cooling effects (through reflectance of solar radiation) of clouds has confounded attempts to reduce our uncertainty of the climatic response to anthropogenic perturbations. My research utilizes a combination of idealized and comprehensive models to answer these questions. The idealized studies involved a water covered Earth-like planet in which different components of the interaction between clouds and radiation were selectively switched off. The comprehensive modeling studies involve using a global climate model to simulate the climatic response to patterns of warming which I have added to the historically observed sea surface temperatures. In particular, this work is elucidating the sensitivity of the subtropical stratocumulus dominated regions and the southern ocean to the influence of a changing large scale atmospheric circulation.
The overarching goal of my research is to contribute to our theoretical understanding of the Atmosphere. With my dissertation the mathematical theory of the atmospheric response to surface heating was expanded, while my current research is making inroads into the difficult problem of how moisture in the atmosphere influences the large-scale circulations. In addition, my research on convection is part of an effort to compare and improve the results of several climate models. These inter-model comparisons are contributing to a better understanding of the entire physical Earth system. One of my primary motivations is a fascination with simple systems that behave in complex ways. The perplexing combination of predictability and chaos in the atmosphere inspires me to continue seeking a better understanding of the Earth system.