Michela Biasutti

I am a Lamont Research Professor at Columbia University. I was trained as an atmospheric dynamicist and my primary research goal is to understand how the physical system works. I also often collaborate outside my primary field to produce research of direct relevance to the management of climate variability and adaptation to climate change. My research happens in a university setting and, as such, it is inextricably linked to my activities as a teacher and mentor to the next generation of climate scientists.  


My projects focus on the current and future climate of the Tropics. I want to answer long-standing questions such as: How is chaotic convection organized into coherent climatic features such as the monsoons, and how are these features shaped by convection itself? How can we be sure that our climate models capture the dynamics of the large-scale well enough to be trustworthy in their projections? What climate uncertainty can be reduced, and what can only be managed?

My main tool has been global climate models (GCMs), which I view as a linchpin between the simplicity of theory and the complexity of observations. GCMs can be run in idealized configurations to test dynamical theories, or attempt to be as realistic as possible to project the regional climate. But the ultimate test of theory and modeling must be in the physical world, so I work with observational datasets ranging from reanalysis to high-frequency rain gauges to satellite-based radar measurements.

Long-term Research Interests

Research projects come and go, but there are themes that persist. For me, one is the climate of the Sahel, the other is the relationship between the rainfall that falls over land and that on the adjacent oceans.

A storm is coming in the Sahel

Intense storms and aridity in the Sahel. 
© 2006 Guichard/Kergoats/CNRS Photothèque.

The climate of the Sahel

The Sahel spans the width of North Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia. It's a semi-arid region that experience its short rainy season during northern summer, in association with the West African monsoon. Rainfall variability in the region is large and consequential. I have long worked on understanding the natural and anthropogenic drivers of drought and the trustworthiness of model projections for the coming decades. You can read my take on the state of the science in this review


An idealized tropical continent in an aquaplanet

Idealized Simulations

Sometimes comprehensive climate models are as difficult to make sense of as the reality that they aim to simulate. But idealizations can bring out the essence of a phenomenon or reveal the reasons why different models simulate it differently. I have co-led an international Model Intercomparison Project that aims to use idealized simulations to understand the behavior of tropical rainfall when ocean and land interact and under global warming. We have some neat results on the origin of polar amplification and the equatorial cold tongue. And more research is forthcoming. 

more resources linked to my research interests

  • Publications: Published & Submitted
  • Sponsored Project. The Earth Institute keeps a list of my grants. See it here. 
  • TRACMIP: the Tropical Rain belts with an Annual cycle and Continent Model Intercomparison Project. Find all the code to access the dataset in Aiko Voigt's site.
  • Conferences. My current research interests are still very much aligned with those of a conference I co-organized in 2018.  Check it out!


I teach in both formal and informal settings, and I am always interested in communicating the beauty of the science and the urgency of the climate problem. Feel free to reach out if I can be of help

classroom teaching

I currently teach "Dynamics of Climate Variability and Change" in the MA in Climate and Society

scientific seminars

Browse a summer school lecture, a long-format seminars, and short conference presentations


Browse some of the presentations I have given to classrooms, civic groups, and Lamont's Open House! 


I enjoy mentoring young scientists at every stage of their development and career and I take very seriously my responsibility to provide a nurturing environment to all, following the guidelines of the Lamont Code of Conduct. If you join me, you will be expected to do your part to support an inclusive community and strongly encouraged to be proactive in shaping our mentoring relationship. 


There are research opportunities for undergraduate students throughout the year.   Columbia students can do research for credit or for pay. Students from other universities may come for summer internships.  


My PhD students have come from the Departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences or Applied Physics and Applied Math. I also  mentor students in the Master of Arts in Climate and Society. 


Lamont offers postdocs a vibrant community of peers–whether working on federally funded grants or their own fellowship projects– and unique support to further their careers by leading grant proposals.   



1 (845) 3658512




61 Route 9W. Palisades, NY 10964

Working Hours

9:00 - 17:00

Michela Biasutti
more about me

I was born and raised in Udine, Italy. I went to college in Trieste to study Physics and eventually fell in love with climate science. Thanks to good mentors at ICTP, COLA, and CMCC, I ended up getting my PhD in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.  I came to Lamont in 2004 as a postdoc and never left. I live in NYC with my husband, my son, and my cat Emma. If you want to hear the whole story and more, you can listen to Adam Sobel's Deep Convection podcast

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