Climate Research in Geography

Research in climatology includes the following key areas: Climate dynamics (climate variations and associated physical mechanisms), climate impacts (of humans on climate, and of climate on humans), boundary layer climate, particularly of snow and ice, and future climate change scenarios. The faculty who are actively involved in some or all of these areas of climate science, are as follows: Dr. Andrew Carleton, Dr. Rob Crane, Dr. Bill Easterling, and Dr. Brent Yarnal.

Specific research projects of the climate scientists, many of which have comprised multi-year grants from federal agencies such as NSF, NASA, and NOAA, include the following:

  • Jet aircraft contrails-their satellite-based climatology and impacts on surface climate (Carleton);
  • The role of Midwest U.S. land surface conditions on warm-season climate variations (Carleton);
  • Climatology of cold-air mesoscale cyclones ("polar lows") over the Southern Oceans (Carleton); Downscaling GCM-generated climate to local scales (Crane);
  • Future climate change scenarios-emphasis on South Africa (Crane and Tschakert);
  • Fire-climate interactions in Mediterranean climates (Taylor and Carleton);
  • Agriculture in the Great Plains-role of climate variations and climate change (Easterling);
  • Interactions of climate with land-use/land-cover change andhydrology (Yarnal); and
  • Interactions of climate with natural hazards including floods, droughts, severe storms, and hurriances (Yarnal).


These scientists apply a wide range of data sets and research techniques to solving problems in climatology, including: satellite and conventional data; development of new instrumentation; statistical techniques; and numerical simulation models.

The climate scientists in geography work collaboratively with other faculty in the geography department and also maintain close ties with their counterparts in other Penn State departments (Meteorology, Geosciences, Forestry). The collaborative environment ensures that students-both undergraduate and graduate-gain both breadth and depth in their understanding of climatology.