2023-2024: Atmospheric Sciences: Brian Soden

Brian Soden
University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science


Dr. Brian Soden is a Professor of Atmospheric Science and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School for Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. He received his B.S. degree from the University of Miami, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. Before returning to the University of Miami, Dr. Soden was a Visiting Scientist and Lecturer at Princeton University, and a Physical Scientist with NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. He specializes in the use of satellite observations to test and improve computer simulations of Earth's climate. His research focuses on understanding the sensitivity of Earth's climate to increasing greenhouse gases and the response of extreme weather events to the resultant warming. 

He has authored over 150 papers and was a Lead Author for the 2007 and 2013 reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Soden is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and American Geophysical Union.  Other honors include the American Meteorological Society's Henry G. Houghton Award, the National Space Club's David S. Johnson Award, and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency's H.E. Reid Award and Lawrence Award.  

Abstract: The Water Cycle in a Changing Climate

Water covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface and is an unmistakable presence in the atmosphere above it. It forms clouds of various colors, shapes and sizes, it falls from the sky as rain or snow, and it produces breathtaking optical phenomena such as rainbows and halos. Yet it is the water that lies unseen in the form of gaseous water vapor that exerts perhaps an even more most profound influence on our planet’s climate. Given its ubiquitous nature, it is surprising how rare water vapor molecules actually are – on average, they comprise fewer than one out of every hundred molecules in the atmosphere. Yet the small concentrations of water vapor belie its importance. Water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas, trapping more of the planet’s heat than any other atmospheric constituent. In sufficient quantities, water vapor condenses to form clouds and precipitation, each of which are highly variable in both space and time. However, despite this apparent complexity in its distribution, many aspects of the water cycle are actually governed by relatively simple physical constraints. These constraints allow us to make confident predictions about how certain facets of the water cycle and climate will respond to increasing greenhouse gases. These simple physical arguments help us to understand climate projections made by much more sophisticated earth system models. This presentation will highlight these simple physical constraints and explain how they help us make confident predictions of the water cycle’s response to a warming climate.