Kirsten Zickfeld

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

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Publications (42)177.04 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Both historical and idealized climate model experiments are performed with a variety of Earth system models of intermediate complexity (EMICs) as part of a community contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Historical simulations start at 850 CE and continue through to 2005. The standard simulations include changes in forcing from solar luminosity, Earth’s orbital configuration, CO2 , additional greenhouse gases, land use, and sulphate and volcanic aerosols. In spite of very different modelled pre-industrial global surface air temperatures, overall 20th century trends in surface air temperature and carbon uptake are reasonably well simulated when compared to observed trends. Land carbon fluxes show much more variation between models than ocean carbon fluxes, and recent land fluxes appear to be slightly under- estimated. It is possible that recent modelled climate trends or climate–carbon feedbacks are overestimated resulting in too much land carbon loss or that carbon uptake due to CO2 and/or nitrogen fertilization is underestimated. Several one thousand year long, idealized, 2 × and 4 × CO2 experiments are used to quantify standard model characteristics, including transient and equilibrium climate sensitivities, and climate–carbon feedbacks. The values from EMICs generally fall within the range given by general circulation models. Seven additional historical simulations, each including a sin- gle specified forcing, are used to assess the contributions of different climate forcings to the overall climate and carbon cycle response. The response of surface air temperature is the linear sum of the individual forcings, while the carbon cycle response shows a non-linear interaction between land-use change and CO2 forcings for some models. Finally, the preindustrial portions of the last millennium simulations are used to assess historical model carbon-climate feedbacks. Given the specified forcing, there is a tendency for the EMICs to underestimate the drop in surface air temperature and CO2 between the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age estimated from palaeoclimate reconstructions. This in turn could be a result of unforced variability within the climate system, uncertainty in the reconstructions of tempera- ture and CO2, errors in the reconstructions of forcing used to drive the models, or the incomplete representation of certain processes within the models. Given the forcing datasets used in this study, the models calculate significant land-use emissions over the pre-industrial period. This implies that land- use emissions might need to be taken into account, when making estimates of climate–carbon feedbacks from palaeo- climate reconstructions.
    Climate of the Past 05/2013; 9:1111-1140. · 3.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This paper summarizes the results of an intercomparison project with Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity (EMICs) undertaken in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The focus is on long-term climate projections designed to: (i) quantify the climate change commitment of different radiative forcing trajectories, and (ii) explore the extent to which climate change is reversible on human timescales. All commitment simulations follow the four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) and their extensions to 2300. Most EMICs simulate substantial surface air temperature and thermosteric sea level rise commitment following stabilization of the atmospheric composition at year-2300 levels. The meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is weakened temporarily and recovers to near pre-industrial values in most models for RCPs 2.6–6.0. The MOC weakening is more persistent for RCP 8.5. Elimination of anthropogenic CO2 emissions after 2300 results in slowly decreasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. At year 3000 atmospheric CO2 is still at more than half its year-2300 level in all EMICs for RCPs 4.5–8.5. Surface air temperature remains constant or decreases slightly and thermosteric sea level rise continues for centuries after elimination of CO2 emissions in all EMICs. Restoration of atmospheric CO2 from RCP to pre-industrial levels over 100–1000 years requires large artificial removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and does not result in the simultaneous return to pre-industrial climate conditions, as surface air temperature and sea level response exhibit a substantial time lag relative to atmospheric CO2.
    Journal of Climate 05/2013; 26(16):5782–5809. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Both historical and idealized climate model experiments are performed with a variety of Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity (EMICs) as part of a community contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Historical simulations start at 850 CE and continue through to 2005. The standard simulations include changes in forcing from solar luminosity, Earth's orbital configuration, CO2, additional greenhouse gases, land-use, and sulphate and volcanic aerosols. In spite of very different modelled pre-industrial global surface air temperatures, overall 20th century trends in surface air temperature and carbon uptake are reasonably well simulated when compared to observed trends. Land carbon fluxes show much more variation between models than ocean carbon fluxes, and recent land fluxes seem to be underestimated. It is possible that recent modelled climate trends or climate-carbon feedbacks are overestimated resulting in too much land carbon loss or that carbon uptake due to CO2 and/or nitrogen fertilization is underestimated. Several one thousand year long, idealized, 2x and 4x CO2 experiments are used to quantify standard model characteristics, including transient and equilibrium climate sensitivities, and climate-carbon feedbacks. The values from EMICs generally fall within the range given by General Circulation Models. Seven additional historical simulations, each including a single specified forcing, are used to assess the contributions of different climate forcings to the overall climate and carbon cycle response. The response of surface air temperature is the linear sum of the individual forcings, while the carbon cycle response shows considerable synergy between land-use change and CO2 forcings for some models. Finally, the preindustrial portions of the last millennium simulations are used to assess historical model carbon-climate feedbacks. Given the specified forcing, there is a tendency for the EMICs to underestimate the drop in surface air temperature and CO2 between the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age estimated from paleoclimate reconstructions. This in turn could be a result of errors in the reconstructions of volcanic and/or solar radiative forcing used to drive the models or the incomplete representation of certain processes or variability within the models. Given the datasets used in this study, the models calculate significant land-use emissions over the pre-industrial. This implies that land-use emissions might need to be taken into account, when making estimates of climate-carbon feedbacks from paleoclimate reconstructions.
    Climate of the Past Discussions 08/2012; 8:4121-4181.
  • H. Damon Matthews, Kirsten Zickfeld
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    ABSTRACT: The climate response to scenarios of zero future greenhouse-gas emissions can be interpreted as the committed future warming associated with past emissions, and represents a critical benchmark against which to estimate the effect of future emissions. Recent climate-model simulations have shown that when emissions of carbon dioxide alone are eliminated, global temperature stabilizes and remains approximately constant for several centuries. Here, we show that when aerosol and other greenhouse-gas emissions are also eliminated, global temperature increases by a few tenths of a degree over about a decade, as a result of the rapid removal of present-day aerosol forcing. This initial warming is followed by a gradual cooling that returns global temperature to present-day levels after several centuries, owing to the decline in non-carbon dioxide greenhouse-gas concentrations. We show further that the magnitude of the peak temperature response to zero future emissions depends strongly on the uncertain strength of present-day aerosol forcing. Contingent on the climate and carbon-cycle sensitivities of the model used here, we show that the range of aerosol forcing that produces historical warming that is consistent with observed data, results in a warming of between 0.25 and 0.5°C over the decade immediately following zeroed emissions.
    Nature Climate Change. 05/2012; 2(5):338-341.
  • K. Zickfeld, V. K. Arora, N. P. Gillett
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies with coupled climate-carbon cycle models suggest that global mean temperature change is proportional to cumulative CO2 emissions, independent of the timing of those emissions. This finding has prompted the suggestion that climate stabilization targets, such as the 2°C target adopted by the Copenhagen Accord, can be expressed in terms of cumulative CO2 emissions. Here we examine the simulated response of a range of global and regional climate variables to the same cumulative CO2 emissions (2500 PgC) released along different pathways using a complex Earth system model. We find that the response of most surface climate variables is largely independent of the emissions pathway once emissions cease, with the exception of variables with response timescales of centuries, such as ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level rise. Peak responses of many climate variables, such as global mean temperature, precipitation and sea ice, are also largely independent of the emissions pathway, except for scenarios with cumulative emissions overshoot which require net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. By contrast, peak responses of atmospheric CO2 and surface ocean pH are found to be dependent on the emissions pathway. We conclude that a CO2 mitigation framework based on cumulative emissions is well suited for limiting changes in many impact-relevant climate variables, but is less effective in avoiding impacts directly associated with atmospheric CO2, whose peak response is dependent on the rate of emissions.
    Geophysical Research Letters 03/2012; 39(5):5703-. · 3.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: doi: 10.1175/WCAS-D-11-00030.1
    Weather, Climate, and Society. 01/2012; 4:212–229.
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    ABSTRACT: The evolution of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) in 30 models of varying complexity is examined under four distinct Representative Concentration Pathways. The models include 25 Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) or Earth System Models (ESMs) that submitted simulations in support of the 5th phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and 5 Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity (EMICs). While none of the models incorporated the additional effects of ice sheet melting, they all projected very similar behaviour during the 21st century. Over this period the strength of MOC reduced by a best estimate of 22% (18%-25% 5%-95% confidence limits) for RCP2.6, 26% (23%-30%) for RCP4.5, 29% (23%-35%) for RCP6.0 and 40% (36%-44%) for RCP8.5. Two of the models eventually realized a slow shutdown of the MOC under RCP8.5, although no model exhibited an abrupt change of the MOC. Through analysis of the freshwater flux across 30°-32°S into the Atlantic, it was found that 40% of the CMIP5 models were in a bistable regime of the MOC for the duration of their RCP integrations. The results support previous assessments that it is very unlikely that the MOC will undergo an abrupt change to an off state as a consequence of global warming.
    Geophysical Research Letters 01/2012; 39(L20709). · 3.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Coupled climate-carbon models have shown the potential for large feedbacks between climate change, atmospheric CO(2) concentrations, and global carbon sinks. Standard metrics of this feedback assume that the response of land and ocean carbon uptake to CO(2) (concentration-carbon cycle feedback) and climate change (climate-carbon cycle feedback) combine linearly. This study explores the linearity in the carbon cycle response by analyzing simulations with an earth system model of intermediate complexity [the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model (UVic ESCM)]. The results indicate that the concentration-carbon and climate-carbon cycle feedbacks do not combine linearly to the overall carbon cycle feedback. In this model, the carbon sinks on land and in the ocean are less efficient when exposed to the combined effect of elevated CO(2) and climate change than to the linear combination of the two. The land accounts for about 80% of the nonlinearity, with the ocean accounting for the remaining 20%. On land, this nonlinearity is associated with the different response of vegetation and soil carbon uptake to climate in the presence or absence of the CO(2) fertilization effect. In the ocean, the nonlinear response is caused by the interaction of changes in physical properties and anthropogenic CO(2). These findings suggest that metrics of carbon cycle feedback that postulate linearity in the system's response may not be adequate.
    Journal of Climate 01/2011; 24(16):4255-4275. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A threat of irreversible damage should prompt action to mitigate climate change, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which serves as a basis for international climate policy. CO2-induced climate change is known to be largely irreversible on timescales of many centuries, as simulated global mean temperature remains approximately constant for such periods following a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions while thermosteric sea level continues to rise. Here we use simulations with the Canadian Earth System Model to show that ongoing regional changes in temperature and precipitation are significant, following a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions in 2100, despite almost constant global mean temperatures. Moreover, our projections show warming at intermediate depths in the Southern Ocean that is many times larger by the year 3000 than that realized in 2100. We suggest that a warming of the intermediate-depth ocean around Antarctica at the scale simulated for the year 3000 could lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which would be associated with a rise in sea level of several metres.
    Nature Geoscience 01/2011; · 11.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is uncertainty about the response of the climate system to future trajectories of radiative forcing. To quantify this uncertainty we conducted face-to-face interviews with 14 leading climate scientists, using formal methods of expert elicitation. We structured the interviews around three scenarios of radiative forcing stabilizing at different levels. All experts ranked "cloud radiative feedbacks" as contributing most to their uncertainty about future global mean temperature change, irrespective of the specified level of radiative forcing. The experts disagreed about the relative contribution of other physical processes to their uncertainty about future temperature change. For a forcing trajectory that stabilized at 7 Wm(-2) in 2200, 13 of the 14 experts judged the probability that the climate system would undergo, or be irrevocably committed to, a "basic state change" as > or =0.5. The width and median values of the probability distributions elicited from the different experts for future global mean temperature change under the specified forcing trajectories vary considerably. Even for a moderate increase in forcing by the year 2050, the medians of the elicited distributions of temperature change relative to 2000 range from 0.8-1.8 degrees C, and some of the interquartile ranges do not overlap. Ten of the 14 experts estimated that the probability that equilibrium climate sensitivity exceeds 4.5 degrees C is > 0.17, our interpretation of the upper limit of the "likely" range given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Finally, most experts anticipated that over the next 20 years research will be able to achieve only modest reductions in their degree of uncertainty.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2010; 107(28):12451-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Avoiding "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" requires stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and substantial reductions in anthropogenic emissions. Here, we present an inverse approach to coupled climate-carbon cycle modeling, which allows us to estimate the probability that any given level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will exceed specified long-term global mean temperature targets for "dangerous anthropogenic interference," taking into consideration uncertainties in climate sensitivity and the carbon cycle response to climate change. We show that to stabilize global mean temperature increase at 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels with a probability of at least 0.66, cumulative CO2 emissions from 2000 to 2500 must not exceed a median estimate of 590 petagrams of carbon (PgC) (range, 200 to 950 PgC). If the 2 degrees C temperature stabilization target is to be met with a probability of at least 0.9, median total allowable CO2 emissions are 170 PgC (range, -220 to 700 PgC). Furthermore, these estimates of cumulative CO2 emissions, compatible with a specified temperature stabilization target, are independent of the path taken to stabilization. Our analysis therefore supports an international policy framework aimed at avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference formulated on the basis of total allowable greenhouse gas emissions.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2009; 106(38):16129-34. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The global temperature response to increasing atmospheric CO(2) is often quantified by metrics such as equilibrium climate sensitivity and transient climate response. These approaches, however, do not account for carbon cycle feedbacks and therefore do not fully represent the net response of the Earth system to anthropogenic CO(2) emissions. Climate-carbon modelling experiments have shown that: (1) the warming per unit CO(2) emitted does not depend on the background CO(2) concentration; (2) the total allowable emissions for climate stabilization do not depend on the timing of those emissions; and (3) the temperature response to a pulse of CO(2) is approximately constant on timescales of decades to centuries. Here we generalize these results and show that the carbon-climate response (CCR), defined as the ratio of temperature change to cumulative carbon emissions, is approximately independent of both the atmospheric CO(2) concentration and its rate of change on these timescales. From observational constraints, we estimate CCR to be in the range 1.0-2.1 degrees C per trillion tonnes of carbon (Tt C) emitted (5th to 95th percentiles), consistent with twenty-first-century CCR values simulated by climate-carbon models. Uncertainty in land-use CO(2) emissions and aerosol forcing, however, means that higher observationally constrained values cannot be excluded. The CCR, when evaluated from climate-carbon models under idealized conditions, represents a simple yet robust metric for comparing models, which aggregates both climate feedbacks and carbon cycle feedbacks. CCR is also likely to be a useful concept for climate change mitigation and policy; by combining the uncertainties associated with climate sensitivity, carbon sinks and climate-carbon feedbacks into a single quantity, the CCR allows CO(2)-induced global mean temperature change to be inferred directly from cumulative carbon emissions.
    Nature 07/2009; 459(7248):829-32. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Climate sensitivity and transient climate response characterise climate feedbacks on the response to equilibrium and transient changes in radiative forcing, but do not relate directly to emissions of carbon dioxide, and do not account for carbon cycle feedbacks. Previous experiments with climate-carbon models have shown that the time-integrated radiative forcing per unit CO2 emission is approximately independent of the background CO2 concentration, due to reduced effectiveness of carbon sinks at higher CO2 concentration cancelling the logarithmic dependence of radiative forcing on CO2 concentration; that the allowable cumulative emissions for climate stabilisation are independent of the emissions pathway; and that global mean temperature remains approximately constant on multi-centennial timescales in simulations in which CO2 emissions cease completely. Here we generalise these results to show that Carbon Climate Sensitivity (CCS), defined as the ratio of temperature change to cumulative emissions, is approximately independent of both the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and its rate of change, and is well-constrained by observations to be in the range 1.0 - 2.0 K/EgC, consistent with estimates based on climate-carbon models of 1.0 - 2.1 K/EgC. CCS therefore aggregates information about climate feedbacks and carbon cycle feedbacks, and represents a simple yet robust metric for comparing models. CCS may also have more general applications in the fields of climate change mitigation and policy, since it allows CO2-induced global mean temperature change to be inferred directly from emissions.
    03/2009; 11:6303.
  • T. Bruckner, K. Zickfeld
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we present the integrated assessment model dimrise (dynamic integrated model of regular climate change impacts and singular events). This model is designed to investigate the stability of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) and to derive related climate policy recommendations. It is written in GAMS and comprises a dynamic model of the THC coupled to a climate model and a global economy model for assessing the monetary cost of climate protection. The THC model is a dynamic four-box interhemispheric extension of the classic Stommel model calibrated against results obtained using the CLIMBER-2 climate model. The reduced-form climate model used to drive the THC model is the ICLIPS multi-gas climate model, which is a computationally efficient, globally aggregated model able to mimic the response of more sophisticated carbon cycle and atmosphere-ocean general circulation models. The THC and climate modules are coupled to a globally aggregated Ramsey-type optimal growth model of the world economy derived from the Nordhaus DICE model. Together, these components create a novel dynamic fully coupled computationally efficient integrated assessment model. Illustrative applications demonstrate that dimrise is able to derive (constrained) economically optimal emissions paths that comply with prescribed bounds on admissible THC weakening imposed in order to avoid an irrevocable breakdown. In addition, emissions corridors are presented which contain all possible emissions paths that do not endanger the stability of the THC and that simultaneously obey restrictions on welfare loss arising from mitigation efforts. The presented results show that, under worst-case conditions, the stability of the THC may be threatened within two decades if global emissions would not deviate from the business-as-usual trajectory.
    Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 01/2009; 14(1):61-83. · 1.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This article was submitted without an abstract, please refer to the full-text PDF file.
    IOP Conference Series Earth and Environmental Science 01/2009; 6(4).
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    ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the risks of a shutdown of the thermohaline circulation (THC) for the climate system, for ecosystems in and around the North Atlantic as well as for fisheries and agriculture by way of an Integrated Assessment. The climate model simulations are based on greenhouse gas scenarios for the 21st century and beyond. A shutdown of the THC, complete by 2150, is triggered if increased freshwater input from inland ice melt or enhanced runoff is assumed. The shutdown retards the greenhouse gas-induced atmospheric warming trend in the Northern Hemisphere, but does not lead to a persistent net cooling. Due to the simulated THC shutdown the sea level at the North Atlantic shores rises by up to 80 cm by 2150, in addition to the global sea level rise. This could potentially be a serious impact that requires expensive coastal protection measures. A reduction of marine net primary productivity is associated with the impacts of warming rather than a THC shutdown. Regional shifts in the currents in the Nordic Seas could strongly deteriorate survival chances for cod larvae and juveniles. This could lead to cod fisheries becoming unprofitable by the end of the 21st century. While regional socioeconomic impacts might be large, damages would be probably small in relation to the respective gross national products. Terrestrial ecosystem productivity is affected much more by the fertilization from the increasing CO2 concentration than by a THC shutdown. In addition, the level of warming in the 22nd to 24th century favours crop production in northern Europe a lot, no matter whether the THC shuts down or not. CO2 emissions corridors aimed at limiting the risk of a THC breakdown to 10% or less are narrow, requiring departure from business-as-usual in the next few decades. The uncertainty about THC risks is still high. This is seen in model analyses as well as in the experts’ views that were elicited. The overview of results presented here is the outcome of the Integrated Assessment project INTEGRATION.
    Climatic Change 01/2009; · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    Journal of Climate 01/2009; 22(10):2501-2511. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Preventing "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" requires stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and substantial reductions in anthropogenic emissions. Here we present a novel approach to coupled climate-carbon cycle modelling which allows one to estimate the probability that any given level of greenhouse gas emissions will exceed specified long-term global mean temperature targets for "dangerous anthropogenic interference", taking into consideration uncertainties in climate sensitivity and the carbon cycle response to climate change. Results obtained within this framework can serve as a basis for selecting a greenhouse gas emissions level given a global mean temperature target and an overshoot probability that society is willing to accept. For instance, we show that in order to stabilize global mean temperature at 2°C above pre-industrial levels with a probability of 0.66, cumulative CO2-equivalent emissions after 2000 must not exceed a best estimate of about 640 PgC (uncertainty range 280-930 PgC), independently of the path taken to stabilization.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2008; -1:07. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper the authors perform an extensive sensitivity analysis of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall to changes in parameters and boundary conditions which are influenced by human activities. For this study, the authors use a box model of the Indian monsoon which reproduces key features of the observed monsoon dynamics such as the annual course of precipitation and the transitions between winter and summer regimes. Because of its transparency and computational efficiency, this model is highly suitable for exploring the effects of anthropogenic perturbations such as emissions of greenhouse gases and sulfur dioxide, and land cover changes, on the Indian monsoon. Results of a systematic sensitivity analysis indicate that changes in those parameters which are related to emissions of greenhouse gases lead to an increase in Indian summer rainfall. In contrast, all parameters related to higher atmospheric aerosol concentrations lead to a decrease in Indian rainfall. Similarly, changes in parameters which can be related to forest conversion or desertification, act to decrease the summer precipitation. The results indicate that the sign of precipitation changes over India will be dependent on the direction and relative magnitude of different human perturbations.
    Advances in Atmospheric Sciences 11/2008; 25(6):932-945. · 1.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We disagree with the conclusion of Le Quéré et al. (Reports, 22 June 2007, p. 1735) that poleward intensifying winds could continue to weaken the Southern Ocean sink in the future. We argue that altered winds, along with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, will likely increase the efficiency of this sink in the 21st century.
    Science 03/2008; 319(5863):570; author reply 570. · 31.20 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

538 Citations
177.04 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012
    • Simon Fraser University
      • Department of Geography
      Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2007–2010
    • University of Victoria
      • School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
      Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2009
    • Concordia University Montreal
      • Department of Geography, Planning and Environment
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
    • Met Office
      Exeter, England, United Kingdom
  • 2004–2009
    • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
      Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany