100+ Climate Experts at the Earth Institute

by |September 11, 2019

Editor’s note: This list was updated on Oct. 29, 2019.

Earth Institute researchers work all over the world and across every aspect of climate change.

Climate change touches nearly every corner of the planet and every aspect of human experience. The Earth Institute is dedicated to helping journalists explain the issues in all their complexity. Here is a partial list our researchers working on climate and related topics. Most can be contacted through the hyperlinks below. This list will be kept updated.

Adaptation, Mitigation, and Resilience

  • Mélody Braun studies mitigation strategies in developed countries as well as adaptation strategies in developing countries, from advancing adaptation policies at country level to the implementation at community level.
  • Patricia Culligan is working on a multi-year, field-monitoring program that aims to understand the role of green infrastructure in New York City stormwater management and climate resilience.
  • Former congressman Carlos Curbelo was the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives and introduced the first carbon pricing legislation by a Republican member of Congress in more than a decade.
  • Lisa Dale studies the laws, regulations, norms and voluntary actions that individuals and collections of individuals can take to achieve a sustainable future. Her work focuses on two main areas: developing-world nations, and the American West.
  • Alex de Sherbinin maps social vulnerability to climate change, and studies climate change impacts on migration and displacement, including managed retreat from coastal inundation.
  • John Furlow previously led the Climate Change Adaptation Program in USAID’s climate change office. He now helps researchers apply their research and expertise to decision making in public health, agriculture, infrastructure planning and other vital sectors.
  • Radley Horton’s research focuses on climate vulnerability, extreme weather, sea-level rise, and adaptation to climate change, especially in urban areas. He has served as an advisor to New York City and the Obama administration, and is co-chair of Columbia’s Climate Adaptation Initiative.
  • Klaus Jacob has been involved in mapping climate hazards to coastal areas and advising on adaptation measures, and has acted as an advisor to New York City in this regard. He is best known for accurately predicting the inundation of the subways during Superstorm Sandy.
  • As the former director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Nilda Mesa directed OneNYC, the city’s long-term sustainability plan which, for the first time for a major U.S. city, tied environmental initiatives with economic development, equity and resilience.
  • John MacWilliams and Sarah La Monaca are examining how companies are addressing the physical and transition risks posed by climate change, and consider how markets can be better engaged to reorient capital toward low-carbon assets.
  • Megan Maurer is a cultural anthropologist. She researches how urban green spaces can be designed and managed so as to increase both human well-being and environmental sustainability.
  • Kate Orff uses planning and design to help communities and ecosystems adapt to the pressures of urbanization, inequality, and climate uncertainty. Her Living Breakwaters design, designed to bring oysters back to New York Harbor to filter water and buffer against storm surges, has received international attention.
  • Richard Plunz is director of the Urban Design Lab and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on housing and urban development. He is coeditor of the book Urban Climate Change Crossroads.
  • Diego Pons communicates climate information to vulnerable communities in mountainous regions including Central America. He also studies the interactions of medium-term climate processes and their impacts on agriculture and food security.
  • Cynthia Rosenzweig co-directs the Urban Climate Change Research Network, an international effort that helps cities design for resilience, and is co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change.
  • Amy Turner is working with city legal departments and sustainability offices to provide key resources to efficiently and effectively address legal questions confronting the urban climate transition.

Agriculture/Food

Photo: Kevin Krajick

  • Weston Anderson studies the dynamics of climate variability and its relation to food security using reanalysis products, remote  sensing observations and model simulations.
  • Walter Baethgen works to improve climate risk assessment and risk management in agriculture, health, water resources and natural ecosystems. Baethgen co-leads a project called Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today, For Tomorrow (ACToday), which works to make food systems healthier and more resilient to fluctuations in climate.
  • Benjamin Cook focuses on how climate change and variability affect the occurrence of drought in North America and other regions including the Mideast, and studies the subsequent effects on agriculture.
  • James W. Hansen’s research has included farm economic risk and sustainability analysis; conflicts in land use; spatial scaling in agro-ecosystem modeling; climate-based crop forecasting; and tropical soil fertility and intercrop ecology.
  • Nicolas Hernandez-Aguilera aims to identify mechanisms by which tropical farmers adapt to increasing climate variability. His latest research focuses on making coffee farming more sustainable.
  • Elisabeth Ilboudo-Nébié conducted her dissertation research on farmer-herder livelihoods, challenges and adaptations in Burkina Faso. She is now documenting the relationship between the ‘re-greening’ of the West African Sahel and food security trends.
  • Carolyn Mutter coordinates the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), which places regional agricultural impacts of climate change into their global economic context in order to assess the vulnerability of world food security.
  • Daniel Osgood leads a team that has helped hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in the developing world purchase index insurance contracts that they themselves have helped design, through farmer-driven, science-based processes.
  • Michael Puma studies global food security, focusing on the susceptibility of the global network of food trade to natural (e.g., megadroughts, volcanic eruptions) and manmade (e.g., wars, trade restrictions) disturbances.
  • Wolfram Schlenker focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture, including in the United States. He also looks at the effect of pollution on agricultural yields, agricultural markets and human health.

Air Quality

  • Susanne Bauer studies aerosols from both human pollution and natural sources such as volcanoes, and their interaction with clouds and climate.
  • Róisín Commane measures the presence and movements of  carbon dioxide, methane and other gases across the planet, including New York City and the most remote areas of the world.
  • Arlene Fiore studies how anthropogenic and natural emissions influence atmospheric chemistry, climate, and air pollution on regional to global scales
  • Dan Westervelt studies climate modeling, aerosol-climate interactions, and air quality in many places, including Africa and China.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Peter Kelemen in Oman, where he studies carbon-capturing minerals. Photo: Kevin Krajick

Cryosphere (Arctic, Antarctica, Glaciers)

Polar scientist Robin Bell during field work in Antarctica.

  • Robin Bell studies the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, focusing on ice sheet dynamics and mass balance, continental dynamics, estuarine processes, and linkages between ice sheet processes and subglacial geology and water flow.
  • Timothy Creyts explores how water and ice interact in and around glaciers and ice sheets.
  • Pierre Dutrieux studies Antarctic ice and its interactions with the atmosphere and surrounding ocean. Among other things, he deploys autonomous robots that roam under the continent’s ice shelves.
  • Jonathan Kingslake models and observes the flow of ice and water in polar ice sheets and glaciers. His work spans glacial hydrology and geophysics, remote sensing, and mathematical modeling.
  • Christine McCarthy performs laboratory physics experiments to better understand how ice sheets and glaciers move on their beds. She also studies the physics of ice on other planets.
  • Benjamin Orlove is an anthropologist who examines the effects on people of climate change and glacier retreat, with an emphasis on water, natural hazards and the loss of iconic landscapes.
  • Joerg Schaefer is a geologist who examines past changes in glaciers and ice sheets across the world including in New Zealand, Greenland and Europe. He is particularly interested in abrupt changes, and the relationships between changes in the south and north polar regions.
  • Marco Tedesco explores the dynamics of ongoing ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica. He is also looking into how climate change is altering snowfall in the United States.
  • Kirsty Tinto works to understand the dynamics of ice in all its forms, including sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets.

Ecology

Maria Uriarte records damage to trees in puerto rico

Maria Uriarte collecting data on how Puerto Rico’s forests were altered by Hurricane Maria. Photo: Kevin Krajick

  • Natalie Boelman is investigating the changes that are triggered when Arctic vegetation and seasonality are altered. Among other things, she is looking into how warming climate is affecting tree growth, fires and animal movements in the boreal forest and tundra regions of northern Alaska and Canada.
  • Ruth DeFries examines human transformation of the landscape and its consequences for climate, biogeochemical cycling, biodiversity and other ecosystem services that make our planet habitable. A particular focus of her work is tropical deforestation and its impacts on atmospheric carbon emissions.
  • Sonya Dyhrman studies marine microbes from the poles to the tropics, their role in cycling carbon and nutrients, and the potential effects of climate change.
  • Hugh Ducklow studies the marine ecosystems of the West Antarctic Peninsula, and how they are changing with ongoing rapid warming of that region.
  • Joaquim Goes focuses on climate change and its impacts on ocean biota, especially harmful algae blooms that are appearing in the Mideast and elsewhere.
  • Andrew Juhl studies how algae and plankton in oceans, lakes, streams, and Arctic sea ice are changing as the world warms.
  • Dorothy Peteet analyzes pollen, spores, and plant and animal macrofossils in bog cores to understand past climate change and to study carbon storage in wetlands. Her work spans the U.S. Northeast to Alaska.
  • Daniel Ruiz Carrascal studies the effects of warming climate on the biota of the high Andes in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
  • Maria Uriarte studies tropical forests and their response to natural disturbances and human land use. She recently found that more frequent big storms whipped up by a warming climate could permanently alter forests across much of the Atlantic tropics.

Energy

  • Jason Bordoff, a former advisor to the Obama administration, is one of the world’s top energy policy experts. His research and policy interests lie at the intersection of economics, energy, environment and national security.
  • Jingguang Chen designs and optimizes fuel cells and electrolyzer catalysts for seasonal energy storage.
  • Erica Downs focuses on Chinese energy markets and geopolitics.
  • Jonathan Elkind worked on international energy and climate issues at the U.S. Department of Energy, helping to coordinate energy policy and leading climate and energy programs with global partners.
  • Antoine Halff has worked as chief oil analyst at the International Energy Agency and lead industry economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • Vijay Modi leads an engineering group that focuses on expanding and improving access to clean, inexpensive energy. The group’s work includes installation of solar microgrids in rural areas of the developing world, and design of “smart” buildings of U.S. urban areas.
  • David Sandalow served as acting secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy. He writes and speaks widely on energy and climate policy, including the financing and geopolitics of renewable energy.
  • Katherine Spector is a longtime energy market analyst, focusing on traded and financial energy markets, with an emphasis on oil and natural gas.
  • Mike Waite’s researches energy issues from buildings to regional-level grids. His particular focus is identifying technologies and developing computational models to optimize the use of renewable energy.
  • Yuan Yang explores novel materials and devices for advanced energy storage, such as solid-state batteries, flexible batteries and safe liquid electrolytes.

Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

hurricane irma from space

Hurricane Irma forming over the Atlantic Ocean in September 2017. Image: NASA

  • Michela Biasutti focuses on monsoons and climate in the tropics, in particular on what controls the location and intensity of rainfall.
  • Suzana Camargo studies tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and their relationship with the climate. She is executive director of Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate.
  • Robert Chen works on exposure and vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change, in particular interdisciplinary data analysis and integration.
  • Robert Field has helped develop fire danger rating systems for Canada, Indonesia and Malaysia. He currently studies the effects of the water cycle on fires, and the cause, fate and effects of emissions from fires.
  • Tim Hall’s primary research interest is tropical cyclones and hurricanes, their relationship to climate, and the hazards they pose to coastal communities.
  • Winslow Hansen studies how climate change and fires affect forests and their ecosystems, and what forests of the future may look like. He has worked in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park among other places.
  • Kai Kornhuber investigates drivers, impacts and future risks of extreme climatic events such as heatwaves, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods.
  • Chia-Ying Lee uses models to study tropical cyclones and hurricanes)
  • Marc Levy identifies the human security implications of climate change.
  • Richard Seager analyzes the causes of multiyear droughts and other extreme weather around the world, and how climate change will impact global hydroclimate. This work has led him into studies of megadroughts in the American West and prospect of its future.
  • Adam Sobel is director of Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, and author of a book on superstorm Sandy. He studies weather and climate, with a focus on extreme weather events.
  • Park Williams studies how human-caused climate change is impacting droughts and wildfires, especially in the American West and California.
  • Yutian Wu studies atmospheric general circulation, climate dynamics, and climate change. One of her recent studies showed how warming taking place in the low and mid-latitudes leads to bursts of cold air breaking out of the Arctic.

Disaster Response

  • Jaishree Beedasy studies the human consequences of disasters and the complexities of recovery and resilience. Her research interests include the spatial and temporal dimensions of disasters and the growing role of social networks in disaster response and recovery.
  • Andrew Kruczkiewicz is interested in integrating remote sensing into early warning systems for extreme events such as floods, storm surge, wildfires and landslides, to inform preparedness and risk assessments by humanitarian agencies.
  • Marc Levy maps the interaction between humans and earth’s surface, generating global images vital for assessing hazards and risks ranging from sea-level rise to forced migration.
  • John Mutter‘s research focuses on the role of natural disasters in constraining development opportunities for poor and emerging societies. He is author of the book The Disaster Profiteers, about how the rich often benefit from disasters, and the poor suffer.
  • Irwin Redlener directs the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He works to understand and improve the nation’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. He is a nationally recognized expert on all aspects of disasters.
  • Jeffrey Schlegelmilch has broad expertise relating to disaster policy, preparedness and response, including their application to wildfires.

General

  • Peter de Menocal, Columbia University’s dean of science, appears frequently in media to address climate change. He is particularly interested in addressing climate’s impacts on human essentials—food, water, energy and shelter—and bringing industry and finance to bear on these issues.
  • Kate Marvel is a climate scientist, writer and speaker who addresses a wide range of scientific inquiry, as well as philosophical and cultural issues related to climate change.
  • Gavin Schmidt directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which monitors the planet’s temperature. He is one of the most widely quoted scientists on the effects of greenhouse gases and general questions about climate change.
  • Jason Smerdon studies how climate has evolved over past decades to centuries. Co-director of the Earth Institute’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, he frequently appears in media to explain and discuss a wide variety of climate-related questions.

Health

  • Earth Institute faculty member Matthew Neidell specializes in environmental, health, and labor economics. Recently he has studied how climate change and rising temperatures affect cognitive performance, labor supply, and outdoor leisure.
  • Robbie Parks is an environmental epidemiologist. He is primarily interested in understanding the impact that climate, weather, and air pollution can have on mortality and disease outcomes.
  • Jeffrey Shaman investigates how hydrologic variability affects vector-borne disease transmission, and how atmospheric conditions impact the survival, transmission and seasonality of pathogens such as flu. His work has shown that malaria and encephalitis might increase under climate change.

Justice and Equality

Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

  • Allison Bridges is studying how disasters such as Hurricane Sandy can exacerbate gentrification in some New York City neighborhoods.
  • Jully Meriño Carela is director of the Women in Energy Program, which elevates women in energy by advancing equality and opportunity.
  • Tatiana Gumucio has worked on integrating gender into climate change adaptation and mitigation policies in Latin America. She has also analyzed women’s and men’s access to information for the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.
  • Malo Hutson studies human inequities related to urban planning, health and race.

Law, Policy and Economics

  • Scott Barrett is an economics professor whose research focuses on international agreements and institutional remedies to transnational challenges, including global climate change and the control of infectious diseases.
  • Satyajit Bose teaches sustainable investment, cost-benefit analysis and carbon pricing. He is associate director of the Earth Institute’s master’s program in sustainability management.
  • Michael Burger is executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He oversees a team of attorneys working to combat climate change, focusing on legal strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate change adaptation through pollution control, resource management, land use planning and green finance.
  • Mauricio Cárdenas focuses on energy and climate issues in Latin America. He previously served both as Colombia’s energy and finance minister.
  • Steven Cohen, former executive director of the Earth Institute, is an expert in environmental policy and sustainability management. A former EPA official, he is often tapped to speak on federal, state and New York City environmental policies, and sustainability-education initiatives.
  • Jesse Coleman focuses on investment law and policy, natural resources, and the intersection between human rights and sustainable development.
  • Ama Francis specializes in developing legal solutions to disaster displacement and climate migration. She also analyzes and supports the implementation of adaptive measures in small islands and poor countries.
  • Michael Gerrard, one of the nation’s top environmental lawyers, directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He and colleagues monitor climate-related legal developments, and government efforts to thwart action against climate change. He co-wrote the book Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization and is leading an initiative that provides legal support for renewable energy projects.
  • Geoffrey Heal is a global thought leader in studying the economics of climate change.
  • Noah Kaufman is an economist who has worked on energy and climate change policy in both the public and private sectors. He has studied carbon pricing, the economic impacts of climate policies, and long-term decarbonization strategies.
  • Christoph Meinrenken focuses on computer modeling to improve the technological and economic performance of low-carbon energy systems. Recent research projects include energy storage in smart buildings, and an automated system to measure the carbon footprints of major consumer products.
  • Jeffrey Sachs is a world-renowned economist. He focuses on many different aspects of sustainable development including public health, economic development, social inclusion and food security.
  • Shiv Someshwar is an expert in climate and sustainable development policy. He has led numerous multidisciplinary efforts to build resilience to climate risks in developing countries, particularly in Asia.
  • Bruce Usher is author of an Earth Institute primer on the financial and business aspects of sustainable energy, and an expert on carbon offsets and carbon footprints.

Oceans/Atmosphere

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

  • Ryan Abernathey studies the strength and structure of global ocean circulation, and its implications for climate.
  • Robert Anderson focuses on the ocean carbon cycle and its sensitivity to global change.
  • Mark Cane is best known for co-creating the first working model of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a cyclic change of surface conditions on the Pacific Ocean that affects weather across much of the world.
  • Arnold Gordon looks at ocean stratification, circulation and mixing, and their role in the planet’s climate system.
  • Baerbel Hoenisch’s research is focused on understanding the role of the ocean and in particular the role of marine carbonate chemistry in global climate change. She has particular expertise in the history of carbon dioxide levels and ocean acidification.
  • Pushker Kharecha studies a broad range of issues involving greenhouse gases, including the influence of coal burning and land use on the atmosphere.
  • Yochanan Kushnir studies how the oceans influence climate variability over scales of years to decades. His recent work has focused on climate swings in Europe, the Mediterranean and Mideast.
  • Braddock Linsley tracks past and present changes in ocean temperature and other conditions using massive coral skeletons.
  • Galen McKinley studies the mechanisms of the carbon cycle in the oceans and atmosphere. Her work includes understanding carbon uptake in the North Atlantic and assessing how future change in ocean carbon fluxes will interact with human emissions.
  • Jerry McManus studies a wide variety of climate-related ocean processes, including past and potential changes in circulation patterns, fertilization of the ocean by iron and other substances, and biological cycles.
  • George Tseloudis heads a research team that analyzes observations and model simulations to investigate cloud, radiation, and precipitation changes with climate and the resulting radiative feedbacks.
  • Christopher Zappa is carrying out fine-scale investigations of sea ice and ocean-air interactions and other phenomena using drones and other innovative methods.

Paleoclimate

billy d'andrea pulls up sediment core on easter island

D’Andrea (blue cap) pulls up a sediment core from a wetland on Easter Island. Photo: Andrea Seelenfreund

  • Edward Cook heads the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Tree Ring Lab, which uses tree-ring data from across the world to study climates of the past going back hundreds to thousands of years, and the implications for the future. He has assembled atlases of tree-ring history for much of the planet that have informed a wide range of studies.
  • William D’Andrea analyzes the remains of plants and other organisms preserved in lake and bog sediments to examine past environmental changes. He works mainly on islands spread across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • Steven Goldstein has been quantifying the timing of climate changes through dating of sediments thousands to millions of years old, in the Mideast and on the ocean floors.
  • Paul Olsen is a paleontologist who studies the patterns, causes and effects of climate change on ecosystems and mass extinctions across geological timescales going back hundreds of millions of years. Among other things, he studies the evolution of dinosaurs, and the effects of changing interplanetary motions on Earth’s climate.
  • Maureen Raymo’s research currently revolves around understanding the history of the ice ages and particularly how sea level has changed dramatically in both the recent and distant past, and what this may presage for the future.
  • Linda Sohl is interested in trying to understand the global climatic conditions that may have had an impact on, and/or evolved in conjunction with, life on this planet in the distant past.
  • Gisela Winckler studies paleoceanography, climate change on timescales ranging from decades to thousands of years, and large-scale processes controlling global cycling of biogeochemical and physical tracers in the ocean, including dust blown from the land.

Prediction and Modeling

  • Alessandra Giannini models the climate of northern Africa’s Sahel region, and its relationship to ocean and atmospheric circulation.
  • Jane Baldwin is a climate modeler who studies the development of heat waves, tropical cyclones, wildfire seasons and other climate-related hazards, with an eye toward their impacts, and policy questions.
  • Lisa Goddard directs the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Her work focuses on understanding and predicting climate change on the 10-20 year horizon. She is a globally recognized expert on El Niño and La Niña, decadal prediction and near-term climate change.
  • Alexey Kaplan examines climate variability, predictability and prediction. His research involves historical weather data and climate analyses, and paleoclimatic reconstructions.
  • Simon Mason works on seasonal climate forecasting and verification, climate change, and southern African climate variability.
  • Ángel Muñoz studies the predictability of extreme events at subseasonal-to-decadal scales. He also works to apply climate forecasts in ways that enhance food security, especially in Latin America.

Water

  • Pierre Gentine investigates continental water cycles and their interactions with vegetation and rising CO2 levels.  He hopes to answer questions about the probabilities of extreme precipitation and droughts, and their effects on agriculture.
groundwater irrigation

Groundwater irrigation. Photo: Columbia Water Center

  • Upmanu Lall directs the Columbia Water Center. He is a world-renowned expert in modeling of hydrologic and climatic systems, and their relation to water systems management. He and colleagues have worked in the United States, India and Latin America to help governments design water systems that can withstand future challenges.
  • Paulina Concha Larrauri focuses on water management for agriculture, urban water supply and climate adaptation.
  • Laureline Josset works on water management optimization, conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, and integrated modeling.

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