of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami
Ph.D. University of Chicago
M. S. University of Chicago
B. S. University of Miami
Click here for abbreviated curriculum vitae.
Click here for links to my
Brian J. Soden is a Professor of Meteorology and
Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School for Marine
and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Soden specializes in the
use of satellite observations to test and improve computer model simulations of
climate change. He has published over 80 publications on a variety of topics,
but most often related to the response of the climate system to global warming.
He received his B.S. degree from the University of Miami, and M.S. and Ph.D.
degrees from the University of Chicago. Before returning to the University of
Miami, Dr. Soden was a Visiting Scientist and
Lecturer at Princeton University, and a Physical Scientist with NOAA's
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ. Dr. Soden
also served as a Lead Author of the 2007 report for the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change. His awards include the American Meteorological Societys Henry G. Houghton Award, the National Space Clubs
David S. Johnson Award, and the NASA H.E. Langley award.
Research Interests: Tropical Climate Change, Climate Modeling, Remote Sensing
My research aims to better understand how natural and human activities alter the Earth's climate and to improve our ability to make confident predictions about the changes to expect over the next century. Many of the most profound societal impacts of climate change stem directly from changes in the hydrological cycle and extreme weather events. I am currently studying both of these and how they are interconnected with each other.
For example, the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active in recorded history. Four major hurricanes struck the continental U.S. causing over $100 billion in damage. Was 2005 an anomaly or a glimpse into the future? As our climate changes, extreme weather events like hurricanes, heat-waves, droughts and floods have become more common. Are these changes linked to global warming? If so, what will the future be like? My research also uses climate models, observations and theory to better understand how the frequency of extreme weather events like hurricanes or intense rain events respond to changes in climate. Other areas of activity include regional climate projections for the Caribbean and South America, and changes in extreme hydrologic events such as droughts and floods.
My research also strives to better understand the role of atmospheric hydrologic processes in determining the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to natural and man-made forces. Because of their ability to provide global observations, remotely-sensed measurements are a key focus of my research. Satellite observations of water vapor, clouds, and precipitation are used to understand the mechanisms which drive changes in the hydrological cycle and evaluate their representation in climate models. Results from these comparisons provide key guidance to assess model projections of future global warming.
In a paper published in the journal Science we explore the relationship between sea surface temperature (SST) and seasonal hurricane activity, and show how differing interpretations of the observational record can imply vastly different futures for Atlantic hurricane activity due to global warming. The two interpretations arise from assumptions of whether it is the local SST in the Atlantic in isolation, or whether it is the SST in the Atlantic relative to the rest of the tropics, that drives variations in Atlantic hurricane activity. If one assumes the former (the local SST hypothesis), then by 2100, the lower bound on Atlantic hurricane activity is comparable to that of 2005, when four major hurricanes struck the continental United States, causing more than $100 billion in damage. The upper bound exceeds 2005 levels by more than a factor of two. However, if one assumes the latter (the relative SST hypothesis), then the future is similar to the recent past, with periods of higher and lower hurricane activity relative to present-day conditions due to natural climate variability, but with little long-term trend. Read the RSMAS press release.
A new study provides the first observational evidence to confirm the link between a warmer climate and more powerful rainstorms. One of the most serious challenges humanity will face in response to global warming is adapting to changes in extreme weather events. Of utmost concern is that heavy rainstorms will become more common and more intense in a warmer climate due to the increased moisture available for condensation. More intense rain events increase the risk of flooding and can have substantial societal and economic impacts. W found that both observations and models indicate an increase in heavy rainstorms in response to a warmer climate. However, the observed amplification of rainfall extremes was found to be substantially larger in the observations than what is predicted by current models. Read the RSMAS press release.
A study in Nature found that long-term changes in hurricane potential intensity are more closely related to the regional pattern of warming than to the actual temperature change. Regions that warm more than average experience increased storm intensity, and vice versa. A surprising result is that the current potential intensity for Atlantic hurricanes is about average, despite the record high temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean over the past decade. This is due to the compensating warmth in other ocean basins. See the RSMAS press release or watch an animation. Read more at the GFDL web page on tropical cyclones and climate change.
A study of climate model projections for the 21st Century identifies a systematic increase in vertical wind shear over the tropical Atlantic which may counteract the effects of warming oceans on hurricane development and intensification. The increased wind shear in the Atlantic is tied to a weakening of the Walker Circulation in response to global warming (see below). Read the RSMAS press release or watch an animation. A link to the GFDL web page on this study.
Using climate model simulations performed for the IPCC, we summarize changes in the hydrological cycle which are likely to occur as the climate warms due to increasing CO2. Among these are more frequent droughts and floods and a weakening of the atmospheric circulation. Watch a movie explaining why wet regions get wetter, and dry regions get drier.
A study published in Nature is the first to show that human activity is altering the circulation of the tropical atmosphere and ocean through global warming. As the climate warms over the past century from increasing greenhouse gases, the Walker Circulation, the principal loop of winds that drives climate and ocean behavior across the tropical Pacific, is slowing down and causing the climate to drift towards a more El Nino-like state. This could have important implications for the frequency and intensity of future El Nino events and biological productivity in tropical oceans. Read the RSMAS press release .
Simulations from the GFDL GCM are used to quantify natural versus anthropogenic contributions to the observed stratospheric cooling trends with implications for future recovery of the ozone hole. Read the RSMAS press release .
Satellite measurements are used to confirm increases in upper tropospheric water vapor - a key signature of a warming planet. Read a perspective on this article by Prof. Robert D. Cess - Water Vapor Feedback in Climate Models. Read the RSMAS press release .
The global cooling which occurred following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo is used to evaluate model predictions of global warming. A perspective on this article is provided by Dr. Anthony Del Genio - The Dust Settles on Water Vapor Feedback.
Brian J Soden
Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, FL 33149