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Atmospheric Science & Global Change

Staff information

Kai Zhang

Earth Systems Analysis & Modeling
Earth Scientist
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
PO Box 999
MSIN: K9-30
Richland, WA 99352


Dr. Kai Zhang's research addresses the treatment and understanding of aerosol and cloud microphysics in the global aerosol-climate model system. He was involved in developing a new version of the global aerosol-climate model ECHAM5-HAM during his stay at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany. His current research focuses on: a) investigating the role of dynamics and microphysics in the ice cloud formation process and improving ice cloud parameterization in the E3SM Earth system model; b) assessing the aerosol indirect effect through ice and mixed- phase clouds; c) understanding the role of aerosols and clouds on the global water and energy cycle.

Research Interests

  • Radiative forcing of aerosols and clouds
  • High-resolution global atmosphere modeling
  • Water and energy flow in the atmosphere

Education and Credentials

  • Ph.D. in Meteorology, 2008, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • M.S. in Meteorology, 2004, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing, China
  • B.S. in Meteorology, 2001, Ocean University of Qingdao, China

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2014 Outstanding Performance Award, PNNL.
  • 2013 Exceptional Contribution Program Award, PNNL.
  • 2006–2007 Governmental Scholarship for Studying Abroad, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
  • 2006 Scholarship from the International Max Planck School on Earth System Modelling Exchange Program, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.
  • 2002 Graduate Student Award, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

PNNL Publications


  • Lin G., S.J. Ghan, M. Wang, P. Ma, R.C. Easter, M. Ovchinnikov, and J. Fan, et al. 2018. "Development and evaluation of an explicit treatment of aerosol processes at cloud scale within a multi-scale modeling framework (MMF)." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 10, no. 7:1663-1679. PNNL-SA-136107. doi:10.1029/2018MS001287
  • Liu Y., K. Zhang, Y. Qian, Y. Wang, Y. Zou, Y. Song, and H. Wan, et al. 2018. "Investigation of short-term effective radiative forcing of fire aerosols over North America using nudged hindcast ensembles." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 18, no. 1:31-47. PNNL-SA-131476. doi:10.5194/acp-18-31-2018
  • Qian Y., H. Wan, B. Yang, J. Golaz, B.E. Harrop, Z. Hou, and V.E. Larson, et al. 2018. "Parametric Sensitivity and Uncertainty Quantification in the Version 1 of E3SM Atmosphere Model Based on Short Perturbed Parameter Ensemble Simulations." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 123, no. 23:13046-13073. PNNL-SA-138521. doi:10.1029/2018JD028927
  • Xie S., W. Lin, P.J. Rasch, P. Ma, R. Neale, V. Larson, and Y. Qian, et al. 2018. "Understanding Cloud and Convective Characteristics in Version 1 of the E3SM Atmosphere Model." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 10, no. 10:2618-2644. PNNL-SA-135860. doi:10.1029/2018MS001350
  • Zhang K., P.J. Rasch, M. Taylor, H. Wan, L. Leung, P. Ma, and J. Golaz, et al. 2018. "Impact of numerical choices on water conservation in the E3SM Atmosphere Model Version 1 (EAM V1)." Geoscientific Model Development 11, no. 5:1971-1988. PNNL-SA-129738. doi:10.5194/gmd-11-1971-2018


  • Das S., H. Harshvardhan, H. Bian, M. Chin, G. Curci, A.P. Protonotariou, and T. Mielonen, et al. 2017. "Biomass Burning Aerosol Transport and Vertical Distribution over the South African-Atlantic Region." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 122, no. 12:6391–6415. PNNL-SA-123121. doi:10.1002/2016JD026421
  • Gryspeerdt E., J. Quaas, S. Ferrachat, A. Gettelman, A. Gettelman, S.J. Ghan, and U. Lohmann, et al. 2017. "Constraining the instantaneous aerosol influence on cloud albedo." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114, no. 19:4899-4904. PNNL-SA-126491. doi:10.1073/pnas.1617765114
  • Lin G., Y. Qian, H. Yan, C. Zhao, S.J. Ghan, R.C. Easter, and K. Zhang. 2017. "Quantification of marine aerosol subgrid variability and its correlation with clouds based on high-resolution regional modeling." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 122, no. 12:6329–6346. PNNL-SA-126774. doi:10.1002/2017JD026567
  • Sand M., B.H. Samset, Y. Balkanski, S. Bauer, N. Bellouin, T. Berntsen, and H. Bian, et al. 2017. "Aerosols at the Poles: An AeroCom Phase II Multi-Model Evaluation." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 17, no. 19:12197-12218. PNNL-SA-122987. doi:10.5194/acp-17-12197-2017
  • Wan H., K. Zhang, P.J. Rasch, B. Singh, X. Chen, and J. Edwards. 2017. "A new and inexpensive non-bit-for-bit solution reproducibility test based on time step convergence (TSC1.0)." Geoscientific Model Development 10, no. 2:537-552. PNNL-SA-118076. doi:10.5194/gmd-10-537-2017
  • Wu C., X. Liu, M. Diao, K. Zhang, A. Gettelman, A. Gettelman, and Z. Lu, et al. 2017. "Direct comparisons of ice cloud macro- and microphysical properties simulated by the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 with HIPPO aircraft observations." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 17, no. 7:4731-4749. PNNL-SA-122879. doi:10.5194/acp-17-4731-2017


  • Fast J.D., L.K. Berg, K. Zhang, R.C. Easter, R.A. Ferrare, J. Hair, and C.A. Hostetler, et al. 2016. "Model Representations of Aerosol Layers Transported from North America over the Atlantic Ocean during the Two-Column Aerosol Project." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 121, no. 16:9814-9848. PNNL-SA-119932. doi:10.1002/2016JD025248
  • Ghan S.J., M. Wang, S. Zhang, S. Ferrachat, A. Gettelman, A. Gettelman, and J. Griesfeller, et al. 2016. "Challenges in Constraining Anthropogenic Aerosol Effects on Cloud Radiative Forcing Using Present-day Spatiotemporal Variability." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113, no. 21:5804–5811. PNNL-SA-115203. doi:10.1073/pnas.1514036113
  • Jiang Y., Z. Lu, X. Liu, Y. Qian, K. Zhang, Y. Wang, and X. Yang. 2016. "Impacts of Global open-fire Aerosols on Direct Radiative, Cloud and Surface-Albedo effects Simulated with CAM5." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 16, no. 23:14805-14824. PNNL-SA-117410. doi:10.5194/acp-16-14805-2016
  • Kipling Z., P. Stier, C.E. Johnson, G.W. Mann, N. Bellouin, S.E. Bauer, and T. Bergman, et al. 2016. "What controls the vertical distribution of aerosol? Relationships between process sensitivity in HadGEM3–UKCA and inter-model variation from AeroCom Phase II." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 16, no. 4:2221-2241. PNNL-SA-109907. doi:10.5194/acp-16-2221-2016
  • Kristiansen N.I., A. Stohl, D.J. Olivie, B. Croft, O.A. Sovde, H. Klein, and T. Christoudias, et al. 2016. "Evaluation of observed and modelled aerosol lifetimes using radioactive tracers of opportunity and an ensemble of 19 global models." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 16, no. 5:3525-3561. PNNL-SA-112717. doi:10.5194/acp-16-3525-2016
  • Lin G., H. Wan, K. Zhang, Y. Qian, and S.J. Ghan. 2016. "Can nudging be used to quantify model sensitivities in precipitation and cloud forcing?." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 8, no. 3:1073-1091. PNNL-SA-116402. doi:10.1002/2016MS000659
  • Peers F., N. Bellouin, F. Waquet, F. Ducos, P. Goloub, J. Mollard, and G. Myhre, et al. 2016. "Comparison of aerosol optical properties above clouds between POLDER and AeroCom models over the South East Atlantic Ocean during the fire season." Geophysical Research Letters 43, no. 8:3991-4000. PNNL-SA-113014. doi:10.1002/2016GL068222
  • Zhang J., K. Zhang, J. Liu, and G. Ban-Weiss. 2016. "Revisiting the climate impacts of cool roofs around the globe using an earth system model." Environmental Research Letters 11, no. 8:Article No. 084014. PNNL-SA-117449. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084014
  • Zhang K., C. Zhao, H. Wan, Y. Qian, R.C. Easter, S.J. Ghan, and K. Sakaguchi, et al. 2016. "Quantifying the impact of sub-grid surface wind variability on sea salt and dust emissions in CAM5." Geoscientific Model Development 9, no. 2:607-632. PNNL-SA-111502. doi:10.5194/gmd-9-607-2016
  • Zhang S., M. Wang, S.J. Ghan, A. Ding, H. Wang, K. Zhang, and D. Neubauer, et al. 2016. "On the characteristics of aerosol indirect effect based on dynamic regimes in global climate models." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 16, no. 5:2765-2783. PNNL-SA-112720. doi:10.5194/acp-16-2765-2016


  • Kulkarni G.R., K. Zhang, C. Zhao, M.I. Nandasiri, V. Shutthanandan, X. Liu, and J.D. Fast, et al. 2015. "Ice formation on nitric acid coated dust particles: Laboratory and modeling studies." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 120, no. 15:7682-7698. PNNL-SA-105539. doi:10.1002/2014JD022637
  • Lacagnina C., O.P. Hasekamp, H. Bian, G. Curci, G. Myhre, T. van Noije, and M. Schulz, et al. 2015. "Aerosol Single-Scattering Albedo over the global ocean: comparing PARASOL Retrievals with AERONET, OMI, and AeroCom Models Estimates." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 120, no. 18:9814-9836. PNNL-SA-107007. doi:10.1002/2015JD023501
  • Shi X., X. Liu, and K. Zhang. 2015. "Effects of Pre-Existing Ice Crystals on Cirrus Clouds and Comparison between Different Ice Nucleation Parameterizations with the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM5)." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 15, no. 3:1503-1520. PNNL-SA-103838. doi:10.5194/acp-15-1503-2015
  • Shrivastava M.B., R.C. Easter, X. Liu, A. Zelenyuk, B. Singh, K. Zhang, and P. Ma, et al. 2015. "Global transformation and fate of SOA: Implications of Low Volatility SOA and Gas-Phase Fragmentation Reactions." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 120, no. 9:4169-4195. PNNL-SA-105095. doi:10.1002/2014JD022563
  • Sudarchikova N., U. Mikolajewicz, C. Timmreck, D. O'Donnell, G. Schurgers, D. Sein, and K. Zhang. 2015. "Modelling of mineral dust for interglacial and glacial climate conditions with a focus on Antarctica." Climate of the Past 11, no. 5:765-779. PNNL-SA-101006. doi:10.5194/cp-11-765-2015


  • Ban-Weiss G., L. Jin, S. Bauer, R. Bennartz, X. Liu, K. Zhang, and Y. Ming, et al. 2014. "Evaluating Clouds, Aerosols, and their Interactions in Three Global Climate Models using COSP and Satellite Observations." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 119, no. 18:10,876–10,901. PNNL-SA-100996. doi:10.1002/2014JD021722
  • Hiranuma N., M. Paukert, I. Steinke, K. Zhang, G.R. Kulkarni, C. Hoose, and M. Schnaiter, et al. 2014. "A Comprehensive Parameterization of Heterogeneous Ice Nucleation of Dust Surrogate: Laboratory Study with Hematite Particles and Its Application to Atmospheric Models." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14, no. 23:13145-13158. PNNL-SA-102858. doi:10.5194/acp-14-13145-2014
  • Hiranuma N., N. Hoffmann, A. Kiselev, A. Dreyer, K. Zhang, G.R. Kulkarni, and T. Koop, et al. 2014. "Influence of surface morphology on the immersion mode ice nucleation efficiency of hematite particles." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14, no. 5:2315-2324. PNNL-SA-97693. doi:10.5194/acp-14-2315-2014
  • Jiao C., M.G. Flanner, Y. Balkanski, S. Bauer, N. Bellouin, T. Berntsen, and H. Bian, et al. 2014. "An AeroCom Assessment of Black Carbon in Arctic Snow and Sea Ice." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14. PNNL-SA-97967. doi:10.5194/acp-14-2399-2014
  • Kulkarni G.R., C.N. Sanders, K. Zhang, X. Liu, and C. Zhao. 2014. "Ice Nucleation of Bare and Sulfuric Acid-coated Mineral Dust Particles and Implication for Cloud Properties." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 119, no. 16:9993–10011. PNNL-SA-94976. doi:10.1002/2014JD021567
  • Mann G.W., K.S. Carslaw, C.L. Reddington, K.J. Pringle, M. Schulz, A. Asmi, and D.V. Spracklen, et al. 2014. "Intercomparison and Evaluation of Global Aerosol Microphysical Properties among AeroCom Models of a Range of Complexity." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14, no. 9:4679–4713. PNNL-SA-97293. doi:10.5194/acp-14-4679-2014
  • Samset B.H., G. Myhre, A. Herber, Y. Kondo, S. Li, N. Moteki, and M. Koike, et al. 2014. "Modelled Black Carbon Radiative Forcing and Atmospheric Lifetime in AeroCom Phase II Constrained by Aircraft Observations." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14, no. 22:12465–12477. PNNL-SA-100041. doi:10.5194/acp-14-12465-2014
  • Tsigaridis K., N. Daskalakis, M. Kanakidou, P.J. Adams, P. Artaxo, R. Bahadur, and Y. Balkanski, et al. 2014. "The AeroCom Evaluation and Intercomparison of Organic Aerosol in Global Models." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14, no. 19:10845-10895. PNNL-SA-101226. doi:10.5194/acp-14-10845-2014
  • Wan H., P.J. Rasch, K. Zhang, Y. Qian, H. Yan, and C. Zhao. 2014. "Short ensembles: An Efficient Method for Discerning Climate-relevant Sensitivities in Atmospheric General Circulation Models." Geoscientific Model Development 7, no. 5:1961-1977. PNNL-SA-101468. doi:10.5194/gmd-7-1961-2014
  • Wang M., X. Liu, K. Zhang, and J.M. Comstock. 2014. "Aerosol Effects on Cirrus through Ice Nucleation in the Community Atmosphere Model CAM5 with a Statistical Cirrus Scheme." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 6, no. 3:756-776. PNNL-SA-102193. doi:10.1002/2014MS000339
  • Zhang C., M. Wang, H. Morrison, R.C. Somerville, K. Zhang, X. Liu, and J.F. Li. 2014. "Investigating ice nucleation in cirrus clouds with an aerosol-enabled Multiscale Modeling Framework." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 6, no. 4:998–1015. PNNL-SA-103108. doi:10.1002/2014MS000343
  • Zhang K., H. Wan, X. Liu, S.J. Ghan, G.J. Kooperman, P. Ma, and P.J. Rasch, et al. 2014. "Technical Note: On the Use of Nudging for Aerosol-Climate Model Intercomparison Studies." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 14, no. 16:8631–8645. PNNL-SA-101696. doi:10.5194/acp-14-8631-2014


  • Ghan S.J., S.J. Smith, M. Wang, K. Zhang, K.J. Pringle, K.S. Carslaw, and J. Pierce, et al. 2013. "A Simple Model of Global Aerosol Indirect Effects." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 118, no. 12:6688–6707. PNNL-SA-93538. doi:10.1002/jgrd.50567
  • Kinne S., D. O'Donnell, P. Stier, S. Kloster, K. Zhang, H. Schmidt, and S. Rast, et al. 2013. "MAC-v1: A New Global Aerosol Climatology for Climate Studies." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 5. PNWD-SA-9922. doi:10.1002/jame.20035
  • Ma P., P.J. Rasch, H. Wang, K. Zhang, R.C. Easter, S. Tilmes, and J.D. Fast, et al. 2013. "The Role of Circulation Features on Black Carbon Transport into the Arctic in the Community Atmosphere Model Version 5 (CAM5)." Journal of Geophysical Research. D. (Atmospheres) 118, no. 10:4657-4669. PNNL-SA-88828. doi:10.1002/jgrd.50411
  • Myhre G., B.H. Samset, M. Schulz, Y. Balkanski, S. Bauer, T. Berntsen, and H. Bian, et al. 2013. "Radiative Forcing of the Direct Aerosol Effect from AeroCom Phase II Simulations." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 13, no. 4:1853–1877. PNNL-SA-92392. doi:10.5194/acp-13-1853-2013
  • Samset B.H., G. Myhre, M. Schulz, Y. Balkanski, S.E. Bauer, T. Berntsen, and H. Bian, et al. 2013. "Black Carbon Vertical Profiles Strongly Affect its Radiative Forcing Uncertainty." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 13, no. 5:2423-2434. PNNL-SA-89550. doi:10.5194/acp-13-2423-2013
  • Six K.D., S. Kloster, T. Ilyina, S.D. Archer, K. Zhang, and E. Maier-Reimer. 2013. "Global Warming Amplified by Reduced Sulfur Fluxes as a Result of Ocean Acidification." Nature Climate Change 3, no. 11:975-978. PNWD-SA-9820. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE1981
  • Wan H., P.J. Rasch, K. Zhang, J. Kazil, and L.R. Leung. 2013. "Numerical Issues Associated with Compensating and Competing Processes in Climate Models: an Example from ECHAM-HAM." Geoscientific Model Development 6, no. 3:861-874. PNNL-SA-92938. doi:10.5194/gmd-6-861-2013
  • Zhang K., X. Liu, M. Wang, J.M. Comstock, D. Mitchell, S. Mishra, and G.G. Mace. 2013. "Evaluating and Constraining Ice Cloud Parameterizations in CAM5 using Aircraft Measurements from the SPARTICUS Campaign." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 13, no. 9:4963-4982. PNNL-SA-92147. doi:10.5194/acp-13-4963-2013


  • Kazil J., K. Zhang, P. Stier, J. Feichter, U. Lohmann, and K. O'Brien. 2012. "The present-day decadal solar cycle modulation of Earth's radiative forcing via charged H2SO4/H2O aerosol nucleation." Geophysical Research Letters 39. PNWD-SA-9634. doi:10.1029/2011GL050058
  • Liu X., X. Shi, K. Zhang, E. Jensen, A. Gettelman, A. Gettelman, and D. Barahona, et al. 2012. "Sensitivity Studies of Dust Ice Nuclei Effect on Cirrus Clouds with the Community Atmosphere Model CAM5." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 12, no. 24:12061–12079. PNNL-SA-86722. doi:10.5194/acp-12-12061-2012
  • Ma P., K. Zhang, J. Shi, T. Matsui, and A. Arking. 2012. "Direct Radiative Effect of Mineral Dust on the Development of African Easterly Waves in Late Summer, 2003-07." Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 51, no. 12:2090–2104. PNNL-SA-82966. doi:10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0215.1
  • Pringle K.J., K.S. Carslaw, T. Fan, G.W. Mann, A. Hill, P. Stier, and K. Zhang, et al. 2012. "A Multi-model Assessment of the Impact of Sea Spray Geoengineering on Cloud Droplet Number." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 12, no. 23:11647–11663. PNWD-SA-9770. doi:10.5194/acp-12-11647-2012
  • Wang M., S.J. Ghan, X. Liu, T.L. Ecuyer, K. Zhang, H. Morrison, and M. Ovchinnikov, et al. 2012. "Constraining cloud lifetime effects of aerosols using A-Train satellite observations." Geophysical Research Letters 39. PNNL-SA-87618. doi:10.1029/2012GL052204
  • Zhang K., D. O'Donnell, J. Kazil, P. Stier, S. Kinne, U. Lohmann, and S. Ferrachat, et al. 2012. "The global aerosol-climate model ECHAM-HAM, version 2: sensitivity to improvements in process representations." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 12, no. 19:8911-8949. PNWD-SA-9732. doi:10.5194/acp-12-8911-2012

Selected Publications


  • Kazil J, K Zhang, P Stier, J Feichter, U Lohmann, and K O'Brien. 2012. "The Present-Day Decadal Solar Cycle Modulation of Earth's Radiative Forcing via Charged H2SO4/H2O Aerosol Nucleation." Geophysical Research Letters 39: Art. No. L02805. doi:10.1029/2011GL050058.


  • Feng, W., Chipperfield, M. P., Dhomse, S., Monge-Sanz, B. M., Yang, X., Zhang, K., and Ramonet, M. 2011. "Evaluation of Cloud Convection and Tracer Transport in a Three-Dimensional Chemical Transport Model." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 11(10):5783-5803. doi:10.5194/acpd-10-22953-2010.

  • Kulmala M, A Asmi, HK Lappalainen, et al., with J Feichter, D O'Donnell, and K Zhang, Editors. 2011. "General Overview: European Integrated Project on Aerosol Cloud Climate and Air Quality Interactions (EUCAARI) - Integrating Aerosol Research from Nano to Global Scales." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 11:13,061-13,143. doi:10.5194/acp-11-13061-2011.

  • Zhang K, J Feichter, J Kazil, H Wan, W Zhuo, AD Griffiths, H Sartorius, W Zahoroski, M Ramonet, M Schmidt, C Yver, REM Neubert, and E-G Brunke. 2011. "Radon Activity in the Lower Troposphere and its Impact on Ionization Rate: A Global Estimate using Different Radon Emissions." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 11:7817-7838. doi:10.5194/acp-11-7817-2011.


  • Kazil J, P Stier, K Zhang, J Quaas, S Kinne, D O'Donnell, S Rast, M Esch, S Ferrachat, U Lohmann, and J Feichter. 2010. "Aerosol Nucleation and its Role for Clouds and Earth's Radiative Forcing in the Aerosol-Climate Model ECHAM5-HAM." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 10(5):10,733-10,752. doi:10.5194/acp-10-107 33-2010.

  • Zhang K, H Wan, B Wang, M Zhang, J Feichter, and X Liu. 2010. "Tropospheric Aerosol Size Distributions Simulated by Three Online Global Aerosol Models using the M7 Microphysics Module." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 10(13):6409-6434. doi:10.5194/acp-10-6409-2010.


  • Zhang K, H Wan, B Wang, and M Zhang. 2008. "Consistency Problem with Tracer Advection in the Atmospheric Model GAMIL." Advances in Atmospheric Sciences 25(2):306-318. doi:10.1007/s00376-008-0306-z.

  • Zhang K, H Wan, M Zhang, and B Wang 2008. "Evaluation of the Atmospheric Transport in a GCM using Radon Measurements: Sensitivity to Cumulus Convection Parameterization." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 8(10):2811-2832. doi:10.5194/acp-8-2811-2008.

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