Climate Dynamics Group
at the University of California, Santa Cruz

As climate dynamicists, we research the changing global climate, focusing on the coupled system comprised of the atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere. We seek to understand fundamental and robust climate responses, such as the Arctic-amplified pattern of surface warming, and the climate feedbacks that characterize them. We investigate how uncertainty in model representations of feedbacks translates into uncertainty in regional and global climate predictions. We quantify the flux of energy through the climate system, and assess how energetic perturbations manifest variously from the tropics to poles in the changing atmospheric circulations. We trace the atmospheric moisture carried by circulations, and evaporated from a warmer surface, to elucidate the changing hydrological cycle and pattern of precipitation.

To carry out our investigations, we use observational data and simulations ranging from simple energy balance models, to aquaplanet models with full-complexity atmospheres but devoid of continents, to the most sophisticated class of coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation models. Theories addressed at understanding atmospheric dynamics help us interpret changes in climate that have occurred over the Earth’s past, as well as those changes likely to occur in the future.

“Within the collection of possible planetary atmospheres, one which is devoid of irregularities occupies a more central and fundamental position than one with any specific arrangement of irregularities.”1

To ensure our research has broad impact, we collaborate with game designers and learning experts to make serious games about climate change. We seek to leverage the power of both games and models to promote the learning of complex topics through experimentation and play. Games additionally hold promise as tools for social good, inspiring collective will necessary to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change. Through these efforts, we expand the research of our program beyond the university classroom and to the gaming generation.

  1. Lorenz, Edward (1967). The Nature and Theory of the General Circulation of the Atmosphere