Watson Lecture Preview: Tapio Schneider

Clouds and Climate Tipping Points

Low clouds over subtropical oceans cool Earth’s climate because they reflect most of the sunlight shining on them back to space. It is unclear, however, how the clouds themselves change with climate; this gives rise to large uncertainties in climate change projections. In his April 24 Watson Lecture, Tapio Schneider will show how advances in computing and satellite observations are enabling breakthroughs in the accuracy of climate projections. Such advances have already revealed a tipping point of the climate system: if greenhouse gas concentrations rise high enough, subtropical low clouds may melt away, triggering dramatic global warming.

Schneider is the Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering and a Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist. His research focuses on the climate dynamics of Earth and other planets. His goal is to develop theories of climate and to advance climate modeling, to better understand and predict climate changes. Schneider received his PhD from Princeton University in 2001. He started at Caltech as an assistant professor in 2002, becoming an associate professor in 2008 and a professor in 2009. He was named Gilloon Professor in 2010 and Wu Professor in 2018. He was also the director of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global and Environmental Science from 2011 to 2012 and began working as a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2016.

The lecture—which will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, in Beckman Auditorium—is a free event; no tickets or reservations are required.

Named for the late Caltech professor Earnest C. Watson, who founded the series in 1922, the Watson Lectures present Caltech and JPL researchers describing their work to the public. Many past Watson Lectures are available online at Caltech's YouTube site.

Written by Sharon Kaplan