Clara Deser

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2021)


Clara Deser is a climate scientist recognized for her work on global climate variability and anthropogenic climate change.  She is known particularly for her observational and modeling studies of the interactions among the atmosphere, oceans and sea ice that give rise to modes of variability on interannual-to-multidecadal timescales, and for delineating their role in projections of regional climate change. Deser was born in Waltham, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby Newtonville.  She was graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1982, and from the University of Washington with a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences in 1989. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and joined the scientific staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder in 1997. Deser is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

Research Interests

Clara Deser’s group is interested in the patterns, mechanisms and predictability of natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change. They have studied a range of natural phenomena including El Niño/La Niña and the Pacific Decadal and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillations, as well as documented the emergence of human-induced influences on climate at regional scales.  Deser’s group uses numerical models of the earth’s climate to understand the physical processes governing these natural modes of variability and their predictability, and to elucidate the mechanisms of human-induced climate change, especially the regional effects of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions. The role of sea ice loss on global climate is another major research focus. Deser’s group has pioneered the use of large ensembles of climate model simulations to probe the combined influences of natural and human-induced contributions to climate variability and change.  Such large ensembles provide a quantitative framework for assessing the risks of climate change and associated impacts on extreme weather, and provide crucial information for adaptation and mitigation efforts.

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