Research Interests of Alan Robock



Collaborators: Brian Toon (University of Colorado), Richard Turco (UCLA), Luke Oman (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Georgiy L. Stenchikov (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology)

In the 1980s much of my work addressed the problem of nuclear winter, the climatic effects of nuclear war, demonstrating long-term (several year) effects with a computer model, disproving the dirty snow effect, and discovering observational evidence of surface cooling due to forest fire smoke plumes in the atmosphere. I am now once again doing research in this area, using modern climate models to look at the climatic effects of regional nuclear conflicts.  Our latest work (this link includes all our recent papers and PowerPoints) shows that even a "small" regional nuclear conflict could have severe global climatic effects, and that there are still enough nuclear weapons in global arsenals to produce nuclear winter, which would last much longer than previously thought.  This is the most serious environmental threat faced by humans and demands immediate policy attention.  Even Fidel Castro is interested.


Collaborators:  Ben Kravitz (Stanford University), Gifford Miller (University of Colorado), Bette Otto-Bliesner (NCAR), Thor Thordarson (University of Edinburgh), Aslaug Geirsdóttir (University of Iceland), Mira Losic (Graduate Student)

We are funded by NSF to study the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate using computer models and data analysis.  Our current project is to study the effects of large volcanic eruptions on Arctic climate.  Our papers on volcanic eruptions and climate include studies of winter warming from large tropical eruptions, climatic effects of high-latitude eruptions (including how they have produced reduced precipitation and famine in Africa and Asia), radiative forcing from volcanic stratospheric aerosol clouds, evaluation of the volcanic record in ice cores, effects of supervolcanoes, and climate modeling of the long-term effects of volcanic eruptions.

I have produced a PowerPoint presentation of the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate that can be used for teaching undergraduate and graduate classes.  It is 62 MB, and you can get it by clicking here.  You will also need the movie, pin.AVI.


Collaborators: Konstantin Y. Vinnikov (University of Maryland), Tom Collow (Graduate Student)

My current funding from NASA is to use soil moisture observations to evaluate retrievals from the new SMOS satellite in preparation for the upcoming SMAP satellite.  I have completed work on a NOAA-funded project to collect and analyze soil moisture data from the United States to evaluated the new Land Data Assimilation System soil moisture calculations. I established a Global Soil Moisture Data Bank to collect and distribute soil moisture observations, and the data can now be retrieved from the International Soil Moisture Network. My papers on soil moisture also include studies of land-surface parameterization schemes, the temporal and spatial scales of soil moisture variations, remote sensing of soil moisture, design of surface observing networks for soil moisture, and trends of soil moisture.


Collaborator: Konstantin Y. Vinnikov (University of Maryland)

I study the human impacts of climate change and the impacts of human activities on the climate system. My papers on human impacts include papers on creation of scenarios of regional climate change, impact of climate change on corn production in Venezuela, effects of preindustrial human activities on climate, and detection of anthropogenic climate effects by examining the vertical structure of observed and modeled climate change and by examining observed and modeled trends in Northern Hemisphere sea ice.


Collaborators:  Ying Fan Reinfelder (Associate Professor), Gonzalo Miguez-Macho (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela)

I recently completed a project funded by NSF (and previously by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection) to use regional climate models to produce scenarios for impact analysis for New Jersey and to study the impacts of climate change on the hydrology of the United States.  This includes changes in water table and streamflow, as well as soil moisture.  We used RAMS-Hydro, a regional climate model developed by Gonzalo Miguez-Macho and Ying Fan Reinfelder, that explicitly models not only the atmosphere but also water table and stream flow.  It is described and used in recent papers here.


Collaborators: Georgiy L. Stenchikov (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), Martin Bunzl (Professor, Philosophy), Richard Turco (UCLA), Luke Oman (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Ben Kravitz (Stanford University), Lili Xia (Graduate Student)

Funded by NSF, we are evaluation the efficacy and possible consequences of proposals to reduce incoming solar radiation to counteract global warming by injecting aerosol particle into the stratosphere.  Our recent papers describe climate model simulations and the benefits, risks, and costs of stratospheric geoengineering.  Visit for the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP).

Prepared by Alan Robock ( - Last updated on February 10, 2012