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

Earth Sciences Division Staff: John C. H. Chiang

John Chiang

John C. H. Chiang

Faculty Scientist

Associate Professor, UC Berkeley

Climate Science Department





Biographical Summary

John Chiang is an Associate Professor in the Dept of Geography and Center for Atmospheric Sciences at University of California, Berkeley.  He was born in Tokyo, Japan and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Dr. Chiang moved United States for graduate school, earning an M.S. in Physics at Cornell University, and a Ph.D. (awarded with distinction) in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.  After a two-year stint as a NOAA Climate and Global Change postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, he started his current faculty position at UC Berkeley. 

Dr. Chiang is a climate scientist specializing on the dynamics of the large-scale atmosphere, ocean, and land systems and its interactions with the global climate.  His research focuses on tropical ocean-atmosphere interactions and the role in played in past climate variability and change, from the distant past to the recent past (20th century).  The methods of his trade include statistical analysis of climate data, developing simple models of climate, utilizing complex global climate models, and drinking lots of coffee.  His teaching interests include climate and atmospheric dynamics, and the science and implications of global warming. He recently co-edited an American Geophysical Union monograph on the ocean’s role in climate change, and is an associate editor of Journal of Climate.

Research Interests

Tropical rainfall variability and change, ocean-atmosphere interactions, paleoclimate dynamics, applications of climate studies to society.


  • COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, New York, NY
    • Ph.D. in Climate Dynamics, with distinction (February 2001).  Primary Advisors: Mark A. Cane, Stephen E. Zebiak, and Yochanan Kushnir.  Thesis: The Intertropical Convergence Zone in Tropical Atlantic Climate Variability. 
  • CORNELL UNIVERSITY. Dept. of Physics, Ithaca, NY
    • M.S. in Physics (May 1996).  Primary Advisors: Kerry H. Cook and Geoffrey V. Chester.  Thesis: Development of a large-scale dynamical model of the atmosphere and application to the study of the response to surface heating at low latitudes.
  • UNIV. OF THE WITWATERSRAND, Dept. of Physics, Johannesburg, South Africa
    • B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics, first class (May 1992), and Mathematics, first class (May 1993).  Primary Advisors: W. D. Heiss and J. D. Comins.  Honours project: Random perturbation of systematic degeneracies and quantum chaos.

Professional Experience

    • Associate Professor (Jul 2008 – present)
    • Assistant Professor  (Jan 2003 – Jun 2008) 
      • Dept. of Geography and Center for Atmospheric Sciences.  Teach undergraduate/ graduate courses on climate sciences and related topics; research in climate dynamics.
  • UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON (Feb 2001 – Dec 2002) Seattle, WA   
    • UCAR Postdoctoral Fellow, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (host: David S. Battisti).  Research on mechanisms of tropical ENSO teleconnections, ocean-atmosphere interactions, and tropical climate of the Last Glacial Maximum.                                                              
  • COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY (Jul 1996 – Dec 2000) Palisades, NY
    • Graduate Research Assistant, Climate group, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.  Analysis and modeling of tropical ocean surface winds; and of the role of the Atlantic Intertropical Convergence Zone in Tropical Atlantic climate variability.
  • CORNELL UNIVERSITY (Jun 1994 – Dec 1995) Ithaca, NY
    • Graduate Research Assistant, Cook research group, Dept. of Soil, Crop and Atmospheric Sciences.  Modeling the response of the atmosphere to surface heating.
  • UNIV. OF THE WITWATERSRAND (Jan 1990 – Dec 1990)   Johannesburg, South Africa
    • Student Research Assistant, Comins Lab., Dept. of Physics.  Developed interferometry technique for measuring refractive index of crystals at high temperatures.

Courses Taught

  • Ongoing graduate seminar in climatology (Geog 257). Past topics: Paleoclimate modeling (Spring 2003); Interannual variability (Fall 2004); Atmospheric Dynamics (2007)
  • Graduate Seminar in Spatiotemporal Data Analysis in the Climate Sciences (Geog 249)
  • Upper division undergraduate course in Climate Dynamics (Geog 142)
  • Upper division undergraduate course in Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics (Geog C139)
  • Lower division undergraduate course in Earth System Science (Geog 40)
  • Lower division “Discovery Course” on Global Warming (L&S 70B)

Awards and Distinctions

  • Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow (2006)                 
  • Comer Mentor Award (July 2004 – June 2007) and extension (2007-2008)
  • NOAA/UCAR Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship (2001-2002)
  • Ph.D. awarded with distinction (2001
  • Heezen Memorial Prize (for outstanding achievement in academics and graduate research, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Science, Columbia University, 2000).
  • Josephine De Kármán Fellowship (2000)
  • NASA Earth Systems Science Fellowship (1997-2000).
  • University Council Postgraduate Scholarship (1992-1994).
  • Most distinguished B.Sc. graduate in the Faculty of Science, U. Witwatersrand (1991)


  • Associate Editor, Journal of Climate (2007-)
  • Co-editor (with Andreas Schmittner and Sidney Hemming) of an AGU monograph “Ocean circulation: Mechanisms and Impacts”
  • UC Berkeley representative to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, 2004-present
  • Organizer, UCB Geography colloquium series (Fall 2005-present)
  • Organizer, UCB Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center seminat series (Fall 2008-present) 
  • Member, Changelings group (abrupt climate change study group)
  • Convenor (with Michela Biasutti, Alessandra Giannini, Isaac Held, and Adam Sobel) of a workshop on Sahel Climate Change, Columbia University, March 2007.
  • Convener (with Anthony Broccoli), AGU Spring 2006 session, “Controls of the Intertropical Convergence Zone in Past Climates: Observations and Models”
  • Convener (with Rowan Sutton and Carrie Morrill), AGU Fall 2005 session, “Climate Impacts of Changes to the Thermohaline Circulation”
  • Convener (with Alessandra Giannini and Benjamin Lintner), AGU Fall 2004 session A10, “The Tropical ENSO Teleconnection: Observations and Mechanisms”
  • Convener (with Carrie Morrill), AGU Fall 2003 session PP41, “Rapid Climate Change during the Holocene and Last Glacial” 
  • Organizing committee, US CLIVAR Atlantic meeting, NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center, Boulder CO, June 12-14, 2001.
  • Organizer, Physical Oceanography/Geochemistry seminar series, L-DEO, 1998.


  • National Academy of Sciences, public symposium “Human Society and Climate Change”, April 30, 2007
  • Cal Day 4/22/2006 public talk: “What’s up with global climate change?”
  • Orlove, Chiang and Cane 2002 (in American Scientist) won the 2003 Bronze award for Magazines Feature Article, 25,001 to 100,000, awarded by the Society of National Association Publications.

Graduate and Post-doctoral Advisees

  • Mr. Andrew Friedman 2005-, Mr. Hyo-Seok Park 2005-, Mr. Yuwei Liu 2008-
  • Dr. Benjamin Lintner, 2003-2005 (now at UCLA), Dr. Yue Fang 2005-2009 (now at the First Institute of Oceanography, Qingdao), Dr. Hugo Lambert 2005-2007 (now at the UK Met Office), Dr. Miren Vizcaino, 2006-2009, Dr. Shih-Yu Lee 2008-present, Dr. Ching-Yee Chang 2008-present


  • LNOAA CLIVAR   Pacific, “Mechanisms of tropical ENSO teleconnections”, 2003-06 ($292,697)
  • Comer Mentor Grant (for study   of abrupt climate change) 2004-2007 ($310,000) and extension 2007-2009   ($220,000)
  • NSF Climate Dynamics,   “Collaborative Research: Tropical Marine Climate Feedback to Mid-and-High   Latitude Climate Change”, 2005-2007 ($304,492)
  • DOE, Office   of Biological and Environmental Research, “The Interhemispheric Pattern in 20th century and Future Abrupt Change in Regional Tropical Rainfall”, 2008-11   ($347,134)