Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: James Benedict

James Benedict

James Benedict

Postdoctoral Research Scientist


Climate Science Department


Phone: 510-486-7629

Fax: 510-486-5686


Biographical Summary

My postdoctoral research at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL) centers on the development, testing, and evaluation of global climate models (GCMs) that implement advanced modeling approaches.  With the availability of ever-increasing computing power and the demonstrated benefit of accurately representing localized features of the earth system, GCM spatial grids are becoming increasingly finer.  Certain statistical assumptions (“parameterizations”) about the behavior of small, unresolved phenomena—for example, cumulus clouds and turbulence—are often dependent on the chosen grid size and can become less accurate as we refine the grid mesh of a traditional GCM.  One approach, called “scale-aware parameterization,” allows these statistical assumptions to more accurately accommodate a refinement in model grid resolution.  We expect that scale-aware parameterizations, combined with a multiscale approach in which the global grid is locally refined in regions where higher resolution would be beneficial (strong baroclinic zones, complex terrain, regions of active convection), will contribute to improved simulations of the future climate.  At LBL, I will work with a team of climate scientists to (1) develop and test GCMs that use scale-aware cloud parameterizations in a multiscale modeling framework and (2) evaluate the ability of these newly developed GCMs to reproduce statistical properties of the climate system—most importantly, the key multiscale features of organized tropical convection—by comparing model output to high-quality, high-resolution, observation-based data sets.


My past research experience has focused on achieving a better understanding of how certain large-scale weather patterns operate both in nature and in model simulations.  This approach not only highlights critical physical processes that characterize the weather phenomenon but can simultaneously reveal model deficiencies that may limit simulation accuracy.  At Pennsylvania State University (B.S.), I had the good fortune of working with Dr. Sukyoung Lee and colleagues on a project examining the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a planetary-scale atmospheric feature that influences weekly to monthly weather patterns from eastern North America to Europe.  We discovered that synoptic-scale eddy wavebreaking upstream of the North Atlantic region is vital to the growth and maintenance of the NAO and that the NAO decays when these eddies are no longer present.  At Colorado State University (M.S., Ph.D.) I worked with Dr. David Randall to analyze a tropical weather phenomenon called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), a propagating pattern of rainy and dry conditions that is poorly understood and yet greatly impacts a range of processes from monsoons to El Niño to midlatitude weather.  My graduate research incorporated the use of a novel approach in atmospheric modeling called “superparameterization” (SP) that improves the way we simulate clouds and their interactions with the environment.  Our work demonstrated that the SP version of a GCM reproduces key features of the MJO and that further improvement is achieved when the SP-CAM is coupled to a simplified slab ocean model.  My postdoctoral research (2010-2012), with a team lead by Dr. Eric Maloney at Colorado State, spanned a range of topics aimed at improving MJO depiction in GCMs.  Our sub-projects included an analysis of the MJO in various configurations of the GFDL AM3, a review of thermodynamic and advective processes of the MJO, and an investigation into the influence that the background atmospheric state had on MJO structure during two recent field experiments.


  • Ph.D., Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 2010
    Dissertation title:  Structure of the Madden-Julian Oscillation in Coupled and Uncoupled Versions of the Superparameterized Community Atmosphere Model
    Advisor:  David Randall
  • M.S., Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 2005
    Thesis title:  The Birth and Death of the MJO:  An Observational Study
    Advisor:  David Randall
  • B.S., Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, 2002
    Thesis title:  The Involvement of Synoptic-Scale Eddies in the Evolution of the North Atlantic Oscillation
    Thesis advisor:  Sukyoung Lee

Professional Experience

  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Dec 2012-present
    Supervisor:  Dr. William Collins
    Theme(s):  Develop and test global climate models (GCMs) that use “scale-aware” cloud parameterizations in a multiscale modeling framework (one in which the grid resolution transitions smoothly to a finer mesh in selected areas); evaluate the ability of these newly developed GCMs to reproduce the statistical properties of our climate system—and, most importantly, the key multiscale features of organized tropical convection—by comparing model output to high-quality, high-resolution, observation-based data sets
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, Dec 2009–Dec 2012
    Supervisor:  Dr. Eric Maloney
    Theme(s):  Examine version 3 of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Atmosphere Model (AM3) and its ability to simulate tropical intraseasonal variability [e.g., Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)]; experiment with modified versions of AM3 with a goal of improving intraseasonal variability depiction; examine impacts of mean atmospheric states on the MJO using radiosonde and satellite data; investigate the potential role of gross moist stability as a diagnostic and/or predictor of the MJO in models and in observations.

Honors and Awards

  • Selected Participant, EUCLIPSE Summer School Clouds and Climate, 2013
  • Outstanding Poster Award for Early Career Scientist, WCRP Open Science Conference, 2011
  • Environmental Science Communication Fellow, 2011
  • Shrake-Culler Scholarship (academic excellence), 2007
  • John A. Dutton Award (excellence in atmospheric dynamics), 2002
  • Hans A. Panofsky Scholarship (academic excellence), 2002
  • Charles Hosler Scholarship (academic excellence), 2001
  • Member, Chi Epsilon Pi (Penn State Meteorology honors society), 2000

Field Work

Tropical Warm Pool International Cloud Experiment (TWP-ICE)—21 Jan-16 Feb 2006, Darwin, Australia.  Participated in synoptic weather assessment group headed by Dr. John McBride; wrote daily discussions and forecasts of synoptic and intraseasonal weather features for use by other project scientists.


  • Presenter, Alliance for Climate Education Workshop: Climate Change in the Next Generation Classroom:  Aug 2013, Sacramento, CA.  Presentation title: Feedbacks, Clouds, and Climate.
  • Max A. Eaton Prize selection committee:  Apr 2012.  Review a collection of student papers and select the top entry at the AMS Hurricane and Tropical Meteorology conference.
  • CSU Chairman, National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest (WxChallenge):  Aug 2005–Aug 2012, Fort Collins, CO.  Develop and maintain CSU’s web forecasting interface, organize weather discussions.
  • Hands-On Future Tech Annual Meeting:  Nov 2008, Albuquerque, NM.  Conduct science demonstrations for undergraduate minority students, recruit participants to CMMAP institutions.
  • Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Annual Meeting:  Oct 2007, Kansas City, MO.  Conduct science demonstrations for undergraduate minority students, recruit participants to CMMAP institutions.

Professional Activities

  • Regular reviewer:
    • Journals:  Climate Dynamics, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, Journal of Climate, Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan, Monthly Weather Review, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, and Environmental Research Letters
    • Grant Agencies:  National Science Foundation
  • Expert contributor to the WCRP/WWRP/THORPEX YOTC MJO Task Force, 2011-2012
  • Co-convener, AGU Fall Meeting, 2012:  A13O, Atmospheric and Oceanic Variability Associated with the MJO in the Tropical Indian and West Pacific Oceans
  • Research consultant, Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes, 2009-2012
  • Member of the American Geophysical Union, 2007-present
  • Member of the American Meteorological Society, 2002-present

Teaching Experience

  • Co-instructor for EV 431, 2008:  Air:  Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, Colorado College
  • Teaching Assistant for ATS 605, 2006:  General Circulation of the Atmosphere, CSU
  • Teaching Assistant for ATS 655, 2004:  Objective Analysis in Atmospheric Science, CSU
  • Lab Instructor for METEO 003, 2001:  Introductory Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University

Computer Programming Skills

  • Proficient in UNIX, Fortran, NCL, and GrADS
  • Some experience in IDL