Professor, Director of AOS Program
Philander studies interactions between the ocean and atmosphere and their role in climate fluctuations and climate changes, in the past and the present. He is particularly interested in El Nino, a phenomenon that brings droughts to the western tropical Pacific, torrential rains to the eastern tropical Pacific, and unusual weather patterns to much of the globe. From an atmospheric point of view, El Nino is attributable to changes in the temperature of the surface waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface, changes that in turn are caused by altered atmospheric conditions. The ocean-atmosphere interactions implied by this circular argument can also affect global climate changes such as the recurrent ice ages. This possibility is currently being explored by means of a hierarchy of coupled ocean-atmosphere models, from relatively simple analytical models to complex General Circulation Models that require a supercomputer. Philander is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteoro-logical Society.