Climate Dynamics

The Climate Dynamics Program in the Jackson School of Sciences is a collaboration between faculty and researchers in the Department of Geological Sciences, and researchers at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. We investigate a broad range of climate processes with numerical models, mathematical diagnosis, and observational analysis. Some projects are aimed at advancing our fundamental knowledge of how climate works, and others are more applied with an eye toward prediction and impacts.

Some primary general areas of research are as follows:

Prospective Graduate students: The Graduate Program in Climate Dynamics is actively seeking strong graduate students for participation in our Graduate Program. Please see the “Education” tab for additional information.


Kerry H Cook

Kerry H Cook

Climate dynamics, atmospheric dynamics, global climate change, paleoclimate, climate and weather of Africa and South America, climate system modeling, climate change in Texas
Patrick  Heimbach

Patrick Heimbach

Heimbach's research group (Computational Research in Ice and Ocean Systems -- (CRIOS)), in the Oden Institute is engaged in a number of projects, with main funding from NASA, NSF, and ONR. (1)
Ashley M Matheny

Ashley M Matheny

Ecohydrology, Bio- and Micro-meteorology, Vegetation Hydrodynamics, Watershed Hydrology, Land-Atmosphere Interactions, Biogeochemistry, Water and Carbon Cycles, and Modeling
Dev  Niyogi

Dev Niyogi

Research seeks to significantly contribute to our understanding of the Earth system, particularly the urban and agricultural landscapes, and the dynamic role of coupled land surface processes on regional hydroclimatic and environmental extremes. An important ongoing and emerging focus of the group's research is to translate the scientific work undertaken ...
Geeta  Persad

Geeta Persad

Atmospheric Aerosols, Climate Change, Climate Modeling, Air Pollution, Global Hydrologic Cycle, Monsoon Systems, Western U.S. Climate Impacts, Climate Policy and Decision-Making
Terrence M Quinn

Terrence M Quinn

Paleoclimate, climate, climate change, climate dynamics, paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, sedimentary geology and geochemistry
Zong-Liang  Yang

Zong-Liang Yang

Dr. Yang's primary research interest is to understand the exchanges of momentum, radiation, heat, water, carbon dioxide, and other materials between the atmosphere and the Earth surface spanning from small (short) to very large (long) scales. This includes analysis of in-situ and remotely-sensed data for the Earth's surface, and modeling ...



Edward "Ned" K Vizy

climate dynamics, atmospheric dynamics, climate change, extreme weather events, climate system modeling, hurricanes, paleoclimate, mesoscale modeling


Robert E Dickinson

Robert E Dickinson

Climate, Global Warming, Land Surface Processes, Remote Sensing, Hydrological Cycle, Carbon Cycle, and Modeling.

Research Scientists

Pedro Di Nezio

climate change
Charles S Jackson

Charles S Jackson

global warming, abrupt climate change, sea level rise, ocean mixing, Bayesian Inference, inverse modeling, simulation, climate projections, uncertainty quantification
Yuko M Okumura

Yuko M Okumura

Climate dynamics, climate variability and change, large-scale ocean-atmosphere interactions, atmospheric teleconnections, paleoclimate and thermohaline circulation, climate change
Judson W Partin

Judson W Partin

Paleoclimate, Stable and Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry, climate change
Bridget R Scanlon

Bridget R Scanlon

Evaluation of the impact of climate variability and land use change on groundwater recharge, application of numerical models for simulating variably saturated flow and transport, controls on nitrate contamination in aquifers

Research Staff

Kathy Ellins

Kathy Ellins

Geoscience education; Discipline Based Education Research (DBER); teacher professional development; geoscience curriculum development; undergraduate geoscience teacher preparation; climate literacy; geoscience, art and design engagement
Darrel M.  Tremaine

Darrel M. Tremaine

Cave and karst exploration - Speleothem and karst trace element chemistry - Speleothem and karst stable and radiogenic isotopes - Paleoclimate and paleohydrology reconstructions - Environmental chemistry - Design of electromechanical field instrumentation - Cave monitoring and calibration of proxies to modern conditions - Fledgeling tree-ring dendrochronologist - Aquifers - ...

Edward "Ned" K Vizy

climate dynamics, atmospheric dynamics, climate change, extreme weather events, climate system modeling, hurricanes, paleoclimate, mesoscale modeling

Graduate Students

Arnold Aluge Aluge

CO2 capture, sequestration, seismic interpretation and subsurface monitoring. Renewable energy and energy systems Mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry and petrogenetic evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks Structural geology and tectonics Developing computer aided field mapping techniques
Patrick C Andrews

Patrick C Andrews

My research centers on Africa's Congo Basin and modifying our understanding of the processes that underlie its rainfall from the synoptic to the climatic scale, especially in relation to MCS's, such as to evaluate the potential for future change to the climate.
Kiara  Gomez

Kiara Gomez

I am generally interested in the applications of biological markers (biomarkers) and geochemistry to address questions in geology

Raven Langhorne

I enjoy researching climate security, as well as regional environmental policies within Asia.
Michael T O'Connor

Michael T O'Connor

I am most interested in the hydrologic and biogeochemical processes occurring at and near the surface of the Earth. I use field and laboratory techniques as well as numerical modeling to understand and represent these complex systems. My current research focuses on the variably saturated flow and nutrient transport dynamics ...

Natasha Sekhon

Paleoclimatology & Isotopic Geochemistry

Chijun (CJ) Sun

I am interested in understanding how the climate system responds to different forcings and under varying background climate states, with the goal of improving our predictions of future climate changes. My PhD research is focused on the use of organic geochemical (GDGTs, leaf wax) and stable isotope (C, H) proxies ...
Wen-Ying  Wu

Wen-Ying Wu

Website Hydrologic Cycle, Climate Variability, Land-Atmosphere Interaction, Satellite Data Analysis, Land-Surface Model

In addition to contributing courses to the undergraduate major in Geosciences, the Climate Dynamics group offers a comprehensive graduate education program. For graduate students, research projects and coursework are both essential elements of a successful graduate career. Here we provide information about selecting a mentor and research direction within the Climate Dynamics Program, and about our course offerings.

Selecting the right graduate program is a much more individual endeavor than selecting an undergraduate school. It is important that your research interests and working style are good matches for those of your major professor. We encourage you to connect with prospective major professors within the Climate Dynamics Program as a first step in the application process. Explore the research topics of each professor and researcher in the program, and send one or more an informed email discussing your overlapping interests and goals to begin a dialog.

Graduate Student Research

Faculty and researchers in the Climate Dynamics Program generally have ongoing research projects in more than one area. These projects may be highly disciplinary and individual, or broadly interdisciplinary involving colleagues in related fields of study.

As a start for your explorations of graduate study at this large and diverse university, we list the members of the Climate Dynamics Graduate Program who make primary contributions to graduate teaching in addition to their research programs. Click the links to individual web pages for more detailed information about ongoing projects. Contact these researchers for more information about their research programs, current availability of support for graduate students, and their advice about other potential good matches for your interests.

Jay L Banner
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Isotopic methods, groundwater, oceans, ancient oceans, climate change, aquifers, caves, environmental science, geochemistry, paleoclimatology

Kerry H. Cook
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Climate dynamics, atmospheric dynamics, global and regional climate change, climate modeling, observational analysis, climate prediction and impacts

Robert E Dickinson
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Climate change, land surface processes, remote sensing, hydrological cycle, carbon cycle, climate modeling

Pedro DiNezio
Research Associate, Institute for Geophysics
Tropical oceans and climate, climate variability, climate prediction, paleoclimate

Patrick Heimbach
Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Ocean dynamics, climate variability, Earth system modeling, ice-ocean interactions, inverse modeling, adjoint methods, uncertainty quantification

Charles S. Jackson
Research Scientist, Institute for Geophysics
Global warming, abrupt climate change, sea level rise, ocean mixing, Bayesian Inference, inverse modeling, simulation, climate projections, uncertainty quantification

Yuko M. Okumura
Research Associate, Institute for Geophysics
Climate dynamics, climate variability and change, large-scale ocean-atmosphere interactions, atmospheric teleconnections, paleoclimate and thermohaline circulation

Terrence M Quinn
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Director, Institute for Geophysics
Paleoclimate, climate change, climate dynamics, paleoceanography, sedimentary geology and geochemistry

Timothy M Shanahan
Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, paleolimnology, sedimentary geology and geochemistry, organic geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, compound-specific

Edward K Vizy
Research Scientist Associate V/ Lecturer, Department of Geological Sciences
Climate dynamics, atmospheric dynamics, climate change, extreme weather events, climate system modeling, hurricanes, mesoscale modeling

Jiangfeng Wei
Research Engineering/ Scientist Associate IV/Lecturer, Department of Geological Sciences
Land-atmosphere interactions, hydrology, water cycle

Zong-Liang Yang
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Land-surface atmosphere interactions, climate and hydrology, regional climate modeling


To earn the doctoral degree, we currently require a minimum of 18 semester hours of coursework (generally 6 classes) within the Climate Dynamics discipline, and supporting coursework of 9 credit hours (3 classes) outside the discipline to broaden students’ knowledge and skill base. (Please see the Graduate Student Handbook for additional information about degree requirements.)

Below we provide a list of classes offered the Climate Dynamics program. Keep in mind, however, that course offerings change year-to-year and selections are made with individual interests and goals in mind.

Climate Dynamics Discipline Courses

Physical Climatology Z.-L. Yang
Climate System Physics R. Dickinson
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I: Atmospheres and Oceans K. Cook
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics II: Waves and Instability K. Cook
Paleoclimatology T. Shanahan
Climate Variability and Change Y. Okumura, P. diNezio
Climate System Modeling E. Vizy
Land Atmosphere Interaction Dynamics Z.-L. Yang
Global Warming K. Cook
Modeling the Global Oceans P. Heimbach
Climate Change: Current Literature R. Dickinson
Hypothesis Testing in the Climate Sciences C. Jackson/J. Partin
Coupled Earth System Modeling J. F. Wei
Physical Oceanography P. Heimbach
Tools for Earth System Modeling M. Shaikh
Research opportunities are available for both current UT undergraduate students and prospective graduate students.

Undergraduates: First review the research programs of the Climate Dynamics faculty and researchers (see the "People" and "Education" tabs), and then contact individuals concerning the availability of undergraduate research opportunities for theses and projects. Different research opportunities will require different backgrounds, and it’s important to find a good match for your interests and future goals.

Prospective Graduate Students: Availability of supported graduate student positions varies from year to year depending on funding. Under the "Education" tab you will find information about potential areas of research.
Aerogeophysical Systems

Aerogeophysical Systems

UTIG has developed, maintained, and operated a suite of aerogeophysical instrumentation since the early 1990s with continual improvements since inception. The suite was installed aboard a Dehavilland DHC-6 ("Twin Otter") up to 2005 and aboard a Basler BT-67 (a version of DC-3T -- a Douglas DC-3 refitted with turboprop engines) since 2008. The current instruments are: High Capability Radar Sounder (HiCARS); Multibeam, Scanning Photon Counting Lidar; Cesium Vapor Magnetometer; Gravimeter; Dual-frequency, carrier-phase Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS); Laser Altimeter; Two GPS-aided Inertial Measurement Units; Three-Axis Fluxgate Magnetometer; System Control, Data Acquisition, and Real-time QC and Monitoring functions.
Analytical Lab for Paleoclimate Studies

Analytical Lab for Paleoclimate Studies

The Jackson School of Geosciences now has four stable isotope laboratories. UTIG Director and DGS faculty member Terry Quinn supervises one of these labs: ALPS. The ALPS houses two, state-of-the-science, Thermo isotope ratio mass spectrometers and an Inductively Coupled Plasma-spectrometer (ICP).
Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope

Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope

Installed in the fall of 2001, this is a 30 kV tungsten gun high-resolution environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) with a 3.5 nm resolution in high vacuum, low vacuum, and environmental modes at 30 kV. The ESEM is equiped with a Peltier cooled stage, a heating stage, an EDS sytem (EDAX), a EBSD system (HKL Oxford Instruments), and a cathodoluminescence detector (Gatan).

HR-ICP Mass Spectrometers

Equipment available: Thermo Element2 HR-ICP-MS with ESI autosampler system for solutions; and Thermo Element2 HR-ICP-MS with Photonmachines Analyte G2 Excimer laser ablation system.

Quadrupole ICP Mass Spectrometer

The Quadrupole ICP-MS laboratory (with laser ablation) is used for elemental determinations in a wide range of liquid (e.g., natural waters, dissolved sediments/rocks, digested biomass) and solid (e.g., rocks, minerals, glasses) samples. The ICP-MS instrument is an Agilent 7500ce, capable of measuring trace element concentrations in solution over a nine-order linear dynamic range, from ppt to 100s of ppm. Sample introduction systems include a Micromist concentric nebulizer with a Peltier-cooled spray chamber for aspirating solutions, and a New-Wave UP193-FX 193 nm excimer laser ablation system for micro-sampling of solids. Sub-ppm detection limits are obtained routinely by laser ablation. The Agilent 7500ce is equipped with a collision/reaction cell, allowing for quantification of environmentally important matrix/plasma-sensitive elements such as As, Se, and Fe. The instrument is housed in a positive-pressure HEPA-filtered laboratory equipped with a weighing station, laminar flow bench, and Type 1 (18.2 M?) ultrapure water station.

Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC)

TACC designs and deploys the world's most powerful advanced computing technologies and innovative software solutions to enable researchers to answer complex questions. TACC's environment includes a comprehensive cyberinfrastructure ecosystem of leading-edge resources in high performance computing (HPC), visualization, data analysis, storage, archive, cloud, data-driven computing, connectivity, tools, APIs, algorithms, consulting, and software.
Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) Lab

Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) Lab

The TIMS Lab is a state-of-the-art facility capable of measuring Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Re-Os, U-Th-Pb and U-series isotopes in a variety of materials, with the goal of resolving fundamental questions in the fields of geology, hydrology, archaeology and environmental science.

Center for Integrated Earth System Science

The Center for Integrated Earth System Science (CIESS) is a cooperative effort between the Jackson School of Geosciences and the Cockrell School of Engineering. The center fosters collaborative study of Earth as a coupled system with focus on land, atmosphere, water, environment, and society.

Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy

In 2005, the University of Texas at Austin chartered the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy (CIEEP), to join the scientific and engineering capabilities of the University's Jackson School of Geosciences and the College of Engineering with the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The University's first center dedicated to energy and environmental policy, CIEEP will seek to inform the policy-making process with the best scientific and engineering expertise.

Center for Planetary Systems Habitability

The Center for Planetary Systems Habitability is an interdisciplinary research center at UT and is the result of a partnership between the Jackson School, the College of Natural Sciences, and the Cockrell School of Engineering. The center advances our ability to search for life on other planets by collaborating on research that helps better understand where habitable zones develop and how they evolve within planetary systems.

Gulf Coast Carbon Center

The Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) seeks to apply its technical and educational resources to implement geologic storage of anthropogenic carbon dioxide on an aggressive time scale with a focus in a region where large-scale reduction of atmospheric releases is needed and short term action is possible.

Land, Environment & Atmospheric Dynamics

The LEAD group consists of graduate research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists and visiting scholars. We view the earth system in a holistic way, linking the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, cryosphere, and solid earth as an integrated system. We use powerful methodologies such as satellite remote sensing and supercomputing simulations which are now profoundly changing research in earth system sciences. We place a strong emphasis on the societal impact of the research in earth system sciences.

Latin America & Caribbean Energy Program

The Latin America & Caribbean Energy Program will create, foster and maintain a regional outreach network that will nurture cooperative and frank discussions of issues related to sustainable development of energy resources and environmental stewardship. The network will include representatives from governments, universities, private sector, multilateral agencies, industry and professional associations and other stakeholders.

Remote Sensing of Earth and Planetary Surface and Environment Program

This program will bring visibility to satellite remote sensing research at JSG among funding agencies and peers, and attract students with strong physics and engineering background and interests in using satellite remote sensing technology to study earth-atmosphere processes.

Affiliated UT Programs & Centers

Center for Space Research

The University of Texas at Austin, Center for Space Research was established in 1981 under the direction of Dr. Byron D. Tapley. The mission of the Center is to conduct research in orbit determination, space geodesy, the Earth and its environment, exploration of the solar system, as well as expanding the scientific applications of space systems data.

Environmental Science Institute

The Environmental Science Institute is a multi-disciplinary institute for basic scientific research in environmental studies founded by The University of Texas at Austin. The Institute serves as a focal point on campus for a wide scope of interdisciplinary research and teaching involving the complex interactions of the biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere in the Earth system, as well as the human dimensions of these interactions.

Texas Advanced Computing Center

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the leading centers of computational excellence in the United States. Located on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, the center's mission is to enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies.

UT Austin Energy Institute

The Energy Institute has been established at the University of Texas at Austin to provide the State of Texas and the Nation guidance for sustainable energy security through the pursuit of research and education programs - good policy based on good science. The Institute will determine the areas of research and instruction in consultation with an Institute Advisory Board, faculty and staff at the University of Texas at Austin, the private energy sector, public utilities, non-governmental organizations, and the general public. The economic future of the State of Texas, and our Nation, depends upon the viability of sustainable energy resources. The mission of the Energy Institute is to provide the transformational changes through research and instruction that are required for this State's and Nation's sustainable energy security.