John Chiang

Climate dynamics, paleoclimate, climate impacts

547 McCone Hall 
Office hours: by appointment

John’s research website.

As a kid growing up in South Africa, I was easily seduced by the slick first-world science by the likes of NASA and CERN (and, of course, Star Trek). I moved to the United States intending graduate studies in physics, but soon realized an applied bent and budding interest in the global environment. I met a professor studying climate; the rest is (as they say) history. It turned out to be a good fit. Climate science has roots in the basic physical sciences but branches everywhere: atmospheric science and oceanography are at the core, and with increasing links into geological, biological, and even social sciences. I also lucked out in the timing (thanks, mom!) by coming into this field at an interesting time; had I started fifty years ago, I might have been consigned to making charts of seasonal rainfall for tourist brochures. I enjoy the license to learn that goes with the job: on the one hand, researching processes of the climate system using pencil and paper or the latest kitchen sink climate models running on supercomputers; on the other hand, broadening my knowledge and making connections to environmental and societal issues through teaching and interacting with students and colleagues interested in climate change.

My research focuses on large-scale tropical atmosphere-ocean (and increasingly, land) systems and its interactions with the global climate. My early work was on the large-scale convective climate of the tropical Atlantic, which possesses a remarkable property of being exquisitely sensitive to change; and in changing, become agents of climate change elsewhere. It got me to thinking about the larger role the tropics play in the global climate system, in particular the way it responds to, and feeds back on, climate forcing. This line of questioning has led me to consider ocean-atmosphere interactions in different ocean basins, and the interactions between them; to interactions between the extratropics and tropics, focusing on processes as far removed as the thermohaline circulation, and building ice sheets. Past climate change motivate much of my research, as it offers valuable clues on the linkages between various climate processes and just how susceptible our climate is to change. My ultimate goal is to understand how the global climate reorganizes in the face of climate forcings, past and future; while that goal is still in the far distance, all signs point to the tropical climate as key.


Chiang, J.C.H., I. Y. Fung, C.-H. Wu, Y. Cai, J. P. Edman, Y. Liu, J. A. Day, T. Bhattacharya, Y. Mondal, and C. A. Labrousse: “Role of Seasonal Transitions and Westerly Jets in East Asian Paleoclimate”. Quaternary Science Reviews, 108, 111-129 (2015)

Swann, L. S., I. Y. Fung, Y. Liu, and J. C. H. Chiang: “Remote vegetation feedbacks and the mid-Holocene Green Sahara”.  J. Climate, 27, 4857-4870 (2014)

Bhattacharya, T., and J. C. H. Chiang: “Spatial Variability and Mechanisms underlying El Nino-induced Droughts in Mexico.  Climate Dynamics, DOI 10.1007/s00382-014-2106-8 (2014) 

Friedman, A. R., Y.-T. Hwang, J. C. H. Chiang, and D. M. W. Frierson: “Interhemispheric Temperature Asymmetry over the 20th Century and in Future Projections”.  J. Climate26, 5419–5433 (2013)

Cvijanovic, I., and J.C.H. Chiang: “Global Energy Budget Changes to High Latitude North Atlantic Cooling and the Tropical ITCZ Response.  Climate Dynamics40, 1435-1452 (2013)

Chiang, J.C.H., and A. R. Friedman: “Extratropical Cooling, Interhemispheric Thermal Gradients, and Tropical Climate Change”.  Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 40, 383-412 (2012)

Liu, Y., and J.C.H. Chiang: Co-ordinated abrupt weakening of the Eurasian and North African Monsoons in the 1960‘s and links to extratropical North Atlantic Cooling.  Journal of Climate25, 3532-3548 (2012).

Park, H.-S, J. C. H. Chiang, and S. Bordoni: “Mechanical impact of the Tibetan Plateau on the seasonal evolution of the South Asian Monsoon”. Journal of Climate25, 2394-2407 (2012).

Chang, C.-Y, J.C.H. Chiang, M.F. Wehner, A.R. Friedman, and R. Ruedy: “Sulfate aerosol control of Tropical Atlantic climate over the 20th century.”  Journal of Climate24, 2540-2555 (2011).

Lee, S.-Y., J.C.H. Chiang, K. Matsumoto, and K. Tokos: “Southern Ocean wind response to North Atlantic cooling and the rise in atmospheric CO2: Modeling perspective and paleoceanographic implications”.  Paleoceaonography26, PA1214, doi:10.1029/2010PA002004 (2011)

Vizcaino, M, S Rupper, and JCH Chiang: ”Permanent El Niño” and the onset of Northern Hemisphere glaciations: mechanism and comparison with other hypotheses.  Paleoceanography, 25, PA2205, doi:10.1029/2009PA001733 (2010).

Chiang, J. C. H.  The Tropics in Paleoclimate.  In Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, pp263-297, v37 (2009)

Fang, Y, J. C. H. Chiang, and P. Chang: Variation of mean sea surface temperature and modulation of El Niño-Southern Oscillation variance during the past 150 years. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L14709, doi:10.1029/2008GL033761, 2008

Lambert, F. H., A. Stine, N. Y. Krakauer, and J. C. H. Chiang: How much will precipitation increase with global warming?  EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, v69, number 21 (2008)

Lintner, B. R., and J. C. H. Chiang: Adjustment of the remote tropical climate to El Nino conditions.  Journal of Climate, 20, p2544-2557 (June 2007).

Chiang, J.C.H. and C.M. Bitz: Influence of high latitude ice cover on the marine Intertropical Convergence Zone. Climate Dynamics, 25, 477-496 (October 2005).

Chiang, J. C. H., and D. J. Vimont: Analogous Pacific and Atlantic meridional modes of tropical atmosphere-ocean variability. Journal of Climate, 17, 4143-4158 (2004)

Chiang, J.C.H., and A.H. Sobel: Tropical tropospheric temperature variations caused by ENSO and their influence on the remote tropical climate. Journal of Climate,15, 2616-2631 (2002).

Orlove, B.S., J.C.H. Chiang, and M.A. Cane: Forecasting Andean rainfall and crop yield from El Niño influences on atmospheric clarity. Nature, 403, 68-71 (2000).


Geog 40 Introduction to Earth Systems Science

Geog C139 / EPS C181 Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics

Geog 142 Climate Dynamics

L&S 70B Global Warming (with Nathan Sayre)

Geog 171 Communicating Climate Science (with Catherine Halversen)

Geog 249  Spatiotemporal Data Analysis in the Climate Sciences

Geog 257  Topics in Climatology