Roger Revelle Chair in Environmental Science

Research Interests

My research centers on ocean-atmosphere interactions and their role in climate formation, variability, and change. The ocean's importance for climate is evident from the facts that most of solar radiation absorption occurs at the Earth surface and that the ocean occupies seventy percent of the Earth surface. Examples of ocean-atmosphere interaction effects are abundant, including the spontaneous generation of El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the northward-displaced tropical rain band called the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic. My research contributes to answering such fundamental questions as what determines the spatial distributions of climate, why it varies in time, how preferred patterns of climate variability form, and how predictable climate is.

I carry out both diagnostic and modeling studies, using observations and numerical models of the ocean, atmosphere, and their coupled system. Geographically, my work covers all three major oceans of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian, and monsoons of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Our research has led to the formulation of wind-evaporation-sea surface temperature (WES) feedback mechanism and the Indian Ocean capacitor effect, the "warmer-get-wetter" idea for rainfall change in global warming, and the discovery of what Science magazine called the longest island wake of the world. The WES feedback is important for the northward displacement of the ITCZ and the tropical meridional mode. For more information, please see a narrative overview.

Research highlights: Atmospheric circulation is key for regional climate forecasts, Solving the Mysteries of Hiatus in Global Warming, and more



  • China Ministry of Education Oversea Scholarship, 1985-1986
  • Japan Ministry of Education (Monbusho) Scholarship, 1986-1991
  • The Yamamoto-Shyono Medal for the 1994 Tellus paper on coupled ocean-atmospheric modeling of the Pacific ITCZ, Meteorological Society of Japan, 1996
  • The Society Medal for contributions to understanding air-sea interaction and its role in climate formation and variability, Meteorological Society of Japan, 2002
  • National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award, 2013
  • Highly cited researcher (among ~140 world wide in geoscience), 2014, 2016, Thomson Reuters; 2017-2021, Clarivate Analytics
  • Elected fellow, American Geophysical Union 2016
  • Distinguished Lecture (Atmospheric Sciences), Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, 2017
  • Sverdrup Gold Medal, and fellow, American Meteorological Society, 2017
  • Distinguished Lecture (Ocean Sciences), Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, 2020