Rachel White

Assistant Professor

Accepting students

I am an Atmospheric Scientist with a focus on large-scale atmospheric dynamics. I have a wide range of research interests within atmospheric dynamics; a major focus of my current work is studying how large-scale atmospheric dynamics (circulation patterns, planetary-scale atmospheric waves...) contribute to extreme weather events such as heat waves and cold snaps. I am also interested in understanding fundamental aspects of our current climate, and how atmospheric circulation may change in the future under anthropogenic warming. I run and analyze results from climate models and analyze data from atmospheric observations to explore a wide variety of questions about our climate, from: How accurately can we predict the probability of summer heat waves weeks to months in advance? to: What differences would we see in atmospheric circulation patterns if the Earth rotated backwards?

Current Projects

Atmospheric Waveguides and Extreme Events

Long term goals: to increase understanding of extratropical extreme weather events, by determining how the probability of such events is influenced by large-scale atmospheric flow and associated compounding factors.

We explore connections between the propagation of atmospheric Rossby wave (large-scale waves in atmospheric flow) and extreme weather events such as heat waves, cold snaps, heavy precipitation events, and droughts.

Sub-seasonal to Seasonal Predictability of Extreme Weather Events

Long-term goals: increase sub-seasonal to seasonal predictability, and reduce the impacts, of extratropical extreme weather events, by harnessing connections between large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns and extreme events.

By studying the seasonal predictability of Rossby wave propagation pathways, in particular 'atmospheric waveguides', we will study how this may be used to provide enhanced predictability of the probability of extreme events at sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales (two weeks to three months).

Effects of Large-scale Orography on Earth's Climate

Long term goals: improve understanding of how large-scale orography (e.g. the North American Rockies, or the Himalaya) affects the circulation and variability of our current climate.

Using idealized climate model simulations in which orography is removed, or the Earth is rotated backwards (or both!) we explore the effects of orography on stationary waves (large-scale, stationary, circulation patterns), atmospheric teleconnections (Rossby waves propagating from source regions and impacting weather and climate in regions far from the source), and how changes in the background atmospheric flow conditions affect teleconnections from the tropics (e.g. from the El Niño Southern Oscillation).

Modelling Past Climates

Long term goals: expand our understanding of past climates through idealized and realistic climate model simulations. 

Simulations using general circulation model simulations help us explore the climates of Earth's past, from the surface to the stratosphere. Studies include simulations of the Last Glacial Maximum using the WACCM6 model, which includes interactive chemistry, and an idealized modelling experiment looking at the influence of the narrower Atlantic basin during the early Eocene period.