University of Miami professor elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

Ben Kirtman, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and the William R. Middelthon, III Endowed Chair of Earth Sciences at the Rosenstiel School has been elected a 2023 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union for his fundamental work on tropical climate dynamics and climate prediction on timescales from days to decades.
University of Miami professor elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union
Photo: Diana Udel, University of Miami Rosenstiel School

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science Professor Ben Kirtman has been elected a 2023 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Kirtman is now the eleventh Rosenstiel School faculty member to receive the distinguished honor, which recognizes scientists for their remarkable contributions in the earth and space sciences. 

A professor of Earth sciences, with an expertise in atmospheric sciences, Kirtman has been at the Rosenstiel School for more than 15 years. His research aims to understand and quantify the limits of climate predictability from days to decades, and how the climate will change in response to changes in anthropogenic greenhouse gases and natural forcing from elements, such as volcanoes. His research involves hypothesis testing numerical experiments, using sophisticated state-of-the-art climate models, experimental real-time prediction, and high-performance computational platforms. 

Kirtman received his Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of California-San Diego in 1987, and his Master’s and Ph.D. in 1992 from the University of Maryland-College Park. From 1993-2002, he was a research scientist with the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies and in 2002 joined the faculty of George Mason University as a tenured Associate Professor. In 2007, Kirtman joined the Rosenstiel School as a professor of atmospheric sciences.

“We are extremely pleased that Ben is being recognized by the American Geophysical Union for his tremendous contributions to climate dynamics and prediction,” said Rosenstiel School Dean Roni Avissar. “Ben is an exemplary scientist, teacher, leader and a mentor to many.”

Kirtman’s awards and service appointments are numerous. In 2011, he was appointed Associate Dean of Research for the Rosenstiel School. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland, 

the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Robert D. Cess Distinguished Lecture, in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Atmospheric Sciences, and the University of Miami Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity in 2018. He was awarded the Rosenstiel School’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences undergraduate teaching award in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Kirtman was elected as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 2018. In 2023, he was elected to the Board of Trustees for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on behalf of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Internationally, Kirtman has enjoyed a leadership role in the World Climate Research Program’s (WCRP) seasonal to-interannual prediction activities. He has chaired the International Climate and Ocean Variability, Predictability and Change (CLIVAR) Working Group on Seasonal to Interannual Prediction, and the WCRP Task Force for Seasonal Prediction. He served as a coordinating lead author for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment, working group one – the Scientific Basis. He was also an executive editor of Climate Dynamics, an associate editor of the American Geophysical Union Journal of Geophysical Research, and is an editor of the AMS Journal Weather and Forecasting.

Kirtman’s research has also been supported by numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Office of Naval Research, a division of the U.S. Navy. Since 2014, he leads the North American Multi-Model Ensemble Prediction (NMME) Experiment, a seasonal forecasting system that consists of multiple coupled models from North American modeling centers. NMME has greatly improved El Niño forecasts and provides data used by NOAA for its seasonal hurricane outlook, and the  National Weather Service to help form long range forecasts and provide advanced weather warnings to citizens. Kirtman is the author and/or co-author of over 250 peer reviewed papers focused on understanding and predicting climate variability on time scales from days to decades.

At the University of Miami, Kirtman is the director of the Rosenstiel School’s NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, the deputy director of the Frost Institute for Data Science and Computing (IDSC), and is the program director for IDSC’s Earth Systems. In 2023, he was named the William R. Middelthon, III Endowed Chair of Earth Sciences. 

“Dr. Kirtman has made fundamental contributions to the field of climate prediction,” said Brian Soden, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the Rosenstiel School. “As a leader in climate modeling, Ben pioneered a new strategy for coupling ocean and atmosphere models—the method of interactive ensembles. This method dramatically improves model simulations of El Niño events by allowing the ensemble mean atmosphere to interact with the changing ocean state as the forecast evolves.” 

With this election, Kirtman joins Rosenstiel School faculty members and AGU Fellows Roni Avissar, Amy Clement, Rana Fine, Chris Harrison, Frank Millero, Joe Prospero, Sharon Smith, Peter Swart, Dennis Hansell, and Brian Soden.

“I am honored, proud, and at the same time humbled by all the incredible achievements of the other recipients of the 2023 AGU Class of Fellows,” said Kirtman. “This award motivates me to press on to improve our understanding of the Earth system, and to ensure that what I do is actionable.”

Fellowship in the AGU is a recognition and accolade for demonstrating excellence in Earth and space sciences. The honor is bestowed on only 0.1% of AGU membership, in any given year. 

Kirtman is one of 54 recipients joining the 2023 class of AGU Fellows who will be honored at the AGU Fall Meeting December 11-15, 2023 in San Francisco.