Natalie J. Burls, PhD

Natalie J. Burls, PhD

Assistant Professor

College of Science

Other Positions:

Research Scientist

Research Theme:


Key Interests:

Climate Dynamics, Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction, Climate Variability, Seasonal and Decadal Climate Modeling, Paleoclimatology, Climate Change


PhD, Physical Oceanography, University of Cape Town

Research Focus

My research is focused on improving our understanding of the key processes determining Earth’s climate and climate variability on a variety of timescales ranging from seasonal, to decadal, to much longer geological scales. In particular, I am interested in the climatic role of ocean general circulation, ocean-atmosphere interactions and cloud dynamics. My research efforts acknowledge that, to fully understand, model and predict changes in climate characteristics that have a large impact on society (especially temperature and precipitation patterns), a fully coupled ocean- atmosphere perspective is needed one that accounts for changes in important variables such as the thermal structure of the slowly-adjusting ocean. Complementing observations with theory, I endeavor to accompany complex simulations of climate phenomena with simple models capturing the essential dynamics required to explain unanswered questions within climate science.

Current Projects

■ Understanding cloud feedback and natural aerosol fingerprints to interpret past warm climate forcing and constrain tropical climate sensitivity

■ Examining the links between Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Atlantic Multidecadal Variability

■ The effect of variations in cloud versus CO2 radiative forcing on tropical SST gradients, atmospheric circulation, and rainfall patterns

■ Characterizing and simulating ocean meridional overturning circulation during the warm Pliocene

Select Publications

N. J. Burls & A. V. Fedorov. Wetter subtropics in a warmer world: Contrasting past and future hydrological cycles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(49), 12888-12893 (2017).

N. J. Burls et al., The Cape Town “Day Zero” drought and Hadley cell expansion. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science 2 (1) 27 (2019).

N. J. Burls et al., Active Pacific Meridional Overturning Circulation (PMOC) during the warm Pliocene. Science Advances 3 (2017).

N. J. Burls et al., Extra-tropical origin of equatorial Pacific cold bias in climate models with links to cloud albedo. Climate Dynamics 49(5-6), 2093-2113 (2017).



College of Science

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