Christopher S. Bretherton

University of Washington


Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Secondary Section: 32, Applied Mathematical Sciences
Membership Type: Member (elected 2019)

Biosketch

Chris Bretherton is an atmospheric scientist who studies cloud formation and turbulence and improves how they are simulated in global climate and weather forecast models. This includes machine learning approaches and, for which he has started a new group at Vulcan Inc. in Seattle supported by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. His research includes participating in field experiments and observational analyses, three-dimensional modeling of fluid flow in and around fields of clouds, and understanding how clouds will respond to and feed back on climate change. Computer code developed by his research group for simulating cloud formation by atmospheric turbulence is used in the two leading US climate models. He was a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, Chair of a 2012 National Academy report entitled A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling, and a former director of the University of Washington Program on Climate Change. In 2012, he received the Jule G. Charney Award, one of the two highest career awards of the American Meteorological Society, and he was the 2019 AMS Haurwitz Lecturer. He is a Fellow of the AMS and AGU, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Chris Bretherton's research group studies cloud formation and turbulence and improves how they are simulated in global climate and weather forecast models. His research includes participating in field experiments and observational analyses, three-dimensional modeling of fluid flow in and around fields of clouds, and understanding how clouds will respond to and feed back on climate change. He and his group developed an influential new theory of how low-lying marine clouds over the cold waters west of the subtropical continent break up as they move further offshore. They also led modeling studies of how this will be influenced by greenhouse warming. They are studying how natural and human-induced aerosol particles affect these clouds, most recently over the Southern Ocean, where phytoplankton seem to be a major aerosol source in the spring and summer. They have documented how large-scale patterns of water vapor strongly interact with tropical rainfall to produce complex cloud organization.  Computer code developed by his research group for simulating cloud formation by atmospheric turbulence is used in the two leading US climate models. Bretherton's group is currently exploring the potential of machine learning methods to improve our representation of low-lying marine cloud and cumulonimbus rainfall in global climate models.

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