Current Research & Open Questions

My research utilizes instrumental observations along with general circulation models of the atmosphere and oceans to improve our understanding of climate and carbon cycle variability. These methods are complemented by the use of simple conceptual models and dynamical systems theory approaches to better understand the fundamental dynamics of observed climate variability and change. Furthermore, I am interested in the development of statistical methods and their correct application to climate data.


Some of the questions that motivate my research are the following:
  1. What are the dynamics of internal modes of climate variability such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the dynamics of emerging greenhouse warming patterns?
  2. How can we improve seasonal rainfall and associated water availability predictions in the population-rich areas of the tropics and Monsoon regions?
  3. How are the tropics dynamically connected to the higher latitudes and the cryosphere?
  4. How are natural modes of climate variability connected to the marine carbon cycle?
  5. How relevant are past climate states as analogues for the future, and can we expect fundamental changes in the characteristics of natural climate variability in response to greenhouse warming?
  6. How can we use our understanding of fundamental climate dynamics to assess and mitigate climate impacts on society and economical systems, caused for instance by regional sea level changes and changes in flood or drought occurrences?

¤ The discovery of a new mode of tropical climate variability -- the ENSO combination mode (C-mode) -- that arises from the interactions between ENSO and the annual cycle. It is characterized by spatial patterns, timescales (i.e. combination tones), and climate impacts that differ significantly from those that we canonically prescribed to ENSO. Important impacts of the C-mode include among others: East Asian Monsoon variability, large-scale shifts of the South Pacific Convergence Zone, and sea level induced coral die-offs in the South Pacific.
     Major Reference: Stuecker et al. 2013 (Nature Geoscience)

¤ Demonstrating that thermodynamic air-sea coupling is only of secondary importance for the establishment of the anomalous Western Pacific Anticyclone, thereby fundamentally revising how ENSO impacts the East Asian Monsoon system.
    Major References: Stuecker et al. 2015 (Journal of Climate), Stuecker et al. 2016 (Journal of Climate)

¤ Showing that the Tropospheric Biennial Oscillation (TBO) is indistinguishable from a white noise null hypothesis in both observational data sets and the CMIP5 model experiments when using the traditional TBO definition.
    Major Reference: Stuecker et al. 2015 (Geophysical Research Letters)

¤ Formulating the interaction between climate variability in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific via Trans-Basin-Variability (TBV). Demonstrating that TBV was an important factor for the recent hiatus in global mean surface temperatures.
    Major Reference: McGregor et al. 2014 (Nature Climate Change)

¤ Developing a new formalism for the interpretation of observed lead/lag correlation relationships between ENSO and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). Further demonstrating that seeing a lead time of the IOD in these correlations can be re-reconciled with ENSO actually causing the IOD.
    Major Reference: Stuecker et al. 2017a (Geophysical Research Letters)

¤ Demonstrating what conditions lead to the unprecedented record low Antarctic sea ice extent during the 2016 austral spring season.
    Major Reference: Stuecker et al. 2017b (Geophysical Research Letters)