October 11, 2023
Staff Accomplishment

Claudia Tebaldi Named American Geophysical Union Fellow

Recognized for outstanding contributions in statistics and climate science

Image of Claudia Tebaldi

Claudia Tebaldi, a PNNL Earth scientist, has been named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Claudia Tebaldi, an Earth scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), has been named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Tebaldi and others will be recognized at AGU23 in December.

“The honor is particularly meaningful for me because I’m a statistician by training, so it validates and rewards a career in a scientific field that generously adopted me,” said Tebaldi, who works in PNNL’s Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) in College Park, MD. “I am honored to be in the company of so many scientists I admire, and very grateful for the colleagues, old and new, that made this possible. The phrase, ‘I could not have done this on my own,’ is a trite formula, but in my case, it is the reality. I have been lucky to work all along with domain scientists that taught me, supported me, and inspired me.”

AGU Fellows are recognized for their outstanding achievements and contributions to Earth and space science. The distinction is awarded for “remarkable innovation and/or sustained scientific impact.” AGU Fellows provide leadership across different geosciences fields.

Tebaldi is a global expert in climate change projections, earning peer recognition for her application of statistical analysis. She has served in prominent roles with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. She arrived at JGCRI in 2019, having worked previously at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO, and for Climate Central Inc.

In 2021, she led a study warning that extreme sea levels would be more common worldwide as the Earth warms, becoming a hundred times more frequent in many coastal locations. In 2012, she was among the first researchers to model the impact of sea level rise during storm surges along U.S. coasts, publishing a paper that was selected by the editors of Environmental Research Letters for inclusion in the “Highlights of 2012” collection.

Her 2004 paper published in Science, “More intense, more frequent and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century,” remains one of her most cited papers and led to her testimony before a U.S. Senate panel concerned with climate change impacts.

“Her work is very interdisciplinary, including statistics, climate science, and climate change impacts,” said Stephanie Waldhoff, a senior Earth scientist at JGCRI.

Some of her recent work, Waldhoff said, has been developing an emulator of Earth system model outputs that can take any annual warming trajectory and generate downscaled climate model output variables. The research allows for understanding past, present, and future climate changes arising from natural and forced variability.

“Moreover, Claudia has built a career that mirrors AGU values and its Fellows program,” Waldhoff said. “She is an excellent communicator, a great mentor, and an excellent colleague who has distinguished herself as a top-tier researcher.”

Ruby Leung, a Battelle Fellow at PNNL and chief scientist of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model project, wrote a support letter to the AGU Fellow selection committee for Tebaldi.

“Claudia has demonstrated exceptional ability to amalgamate climate science and statistics and formulate science questions that provide new and practical insights,” Leung wrote, detailing in the letter Tebaldi’s climate science achievements. “She has provided leadership in many roles, and in my observations her insights and services are always valued by the community.”

In his nomination letter, Gerald A. Meehl, a former colleague of Tebaldi at NCAR, wrote that she “approaches climate change analyses as viewed through the lens of her statistics background.  This unusual combination of knowledge and skills has led her to make unique and impactful research discoveries.”

Meehl, an AGU Fellow and NCAR Climate and Global Dynamics Lab senior scientist and section head, concluded saying Tebaldi should be named an AGU Fellow for her “outstanding contributions in both statistics and climate that demonstrate novel and innovative applications of statistics to climatology leading to improved understanding of historical and future climate change.”