Adam H. Sobel


217 S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4701

Tel(212) 854-6587
Fax(212) 854 8257

Adam H. Sobel studies weather and climate, with a focus on extreme weather events and a particular interest in the tropics. Phenomena include tropical cyclones, intraseasonal variability, precipitation, severe convection, and climate change. 

Research Interests

Atmospheric dynamics, climate variability and change, extreme weather, tropical meteorology, tropical cyclones, Madden-Julian oscillation, subseasonal-to-seasonal prediction, general circulation, extreme precipitation,, severe convection (tornadoes and hail). He joined the faculty of Columbia Engineering in 2000.

Research Areas

Sobel’s research spans basic and applied prediction and risk assessment, and uses observations, theory, and numerical simulations with models spanning a hierarchy in complexity. He is particularly interested in the interactions between turbulent deep convection and large-scale atmospheric dynamics, as these are key to the qualitative and quantitative understanding and prediction of many modes of atmospheric behavior, including extreme precipitation events. He has developed novel methods for diagnosing these interactions, connecting high-resolution explicit simulations of cloud systems to simple theoretical representations of large-scale dynamics in order to extract essential mechanisms and understand the connections between weather and climate. In another line of work, with colleagues in both academia and the insurance industry, Sobel has been developing hybrid statistical-dynamical models, combining mechanistic understanding with inference from observational data, to assess the risk of rare but extremely damaging extreme weather events, particularly tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and hail.

Sobel received a BA in physics and music from Wesleyan in 1989 and a PhD in meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998. He has received the Meisinger Award (2010) and Louis J. Battan Author’s Award (2014) from the American Meteorological Society, the Ascent Award from the Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union (2014), and the Lamont-Doherty Award for Excellence in Mentoring (2010).


  • Postdoctoral fellow, University of Washington, 1997-1999


  • Professor of applied physics and applied mathematics and earth and environmental science, Columbia University, 2010-
  • Associate professor of applied physics and applied mathematics and earth and environmental science, Columbia University, 2003–2010
  • Assistant professor of applied physics and applied mathematics and earth and environmental science, Columbia University, 2000–2003


  • American Meteorological Society
  • American Geophysical Union


  • AMS Louis J. Battan Author’s Award for Storm Surge, 2016
  • AGU (Atmospheric Sciences Section) Ascent Award, 2014
  • Atmospheric Science Librarians International Choice Award (Popular Category) for Storm Surge (see publications), 2014
  • AXA Award from the AXA Research Fund, 2013
  • AMS Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award, 2010
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Award for Excellence in Mentoring, 2010
  • AMS Editor’s award for Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 2009
  • NASA New Investigator Award, 2001
  • Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, 2000


  • Sobel, A. H.,  and C. S. Bretherton, 2000: Modeling tropical precipitation in a single column.  J. Climate, 13, 4378-4392.
  • Sobel, A. H., J. Nilsson, and L. M. Polvani, 2001:  The weak temperature gradient approximation and balanced tropical moisture waves.  J. Atmos. Sci., 58, 3650-3665.
  • Camargo, S. J., and A. H. Sobel, 2005:  Western north Pacific tropical cyclone intensity and ENSO.  J. Climate, 18, 2996-3006.
  • Sobel, A. H., E. D. Maloney, G. Bellon, and D. M. Frierson, 2008:  The role of surface fluxes in tropical intraseasonal oscillations.  Nature Geoscience, 1, 653-657.
  • Tippett, M. K., S. J. Camargo and A. H. Sobel, 2012:  Association of U.S. tornado occurrence with monthly environmental parameters.  Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L02801, doi:10.1029/2011GL050368.
  • Sobel, A. H., and E. D. Maloney, 2013: Moisture modes and the eastward propagation of the MJO. J. Atmos. Sci., 70, 187-192.
  • Sobel, A. H., S. J. Camargo, T. M. Hall, C.-Y. Lee, M. K. Tippett, and A. A. Wing, 2016: Human influence on tropical cyclone intensity. Science, 353, 242- 246, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6574. 
  • Lee, C.-Y., M. K. Tippett, A. H. Sobel, and S. J. Camargo, 2016a: Rapid intensification and the bimodal distribution of tropical cyclone intensity. Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10625.
  • Nie, J., D. A. Shaevitz, and A. H. Sobel (2016), Forcings and feedbacks on convection in the 2010 Pakistan flood: Modeling extreme precipitation with interactive large-scale ascent, Journal of Advances in Modeling the Earth System, 8, 1055–1072, doi:10.1002/2016MS000663.
  • A. H. Sobel, 2014: Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future, Harper-Collins, published October 2014. (Popular science.)