Isaac M. Held

Princeton University

Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2003)


Initial interest in mathematics and theoretical physics transitioned in graduate school to an interest in climate dynamics, at which point I transferred to Princeton's Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS), from which I received a Ph.D. in 1976.  After a post-doc at Harvard, I returned to a Federal Position at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, where I remained until 2019.  During that period I was also a Visiting Lecturer at Princeton. After retiring from NOAA and the AOS Program in 2019, I have retained an affiliation with Princeton as Senior Meteorologist in AOS.

Research Interests

I continue my research on  the dynamics of the Earth's climate, with particular interests in the planetary-scale structure of the atmospheric circulation, climate sensitivity, and various aspects of geophysical turbulence. As a theorist, I have primarily developed and studied idealized dynamical systems that help us understand some of the basic features of our climate, such as the size of the Hadley circulation in the tropics, the poleward energy transport by the macroturbulence of the midlatitude atmosphere, the organization of midlatitude cyclones into wave packets, and the deviations from zonal (east-west) symmetry of the climate on large scales caused by orography and land-ocean thermal contrasts.   In recent years I have also been active as part of a team developing new comprehensive climate simulation models, primarily for global warming studies, with an emphasis on the response of tropical cyclones to climate change.

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