Max Berkelhammer

Assistant Professor

BA Geology, 2002, Pomona College
PhD Earth Sciences, 2010, University of Southern California
Post-Doctoral Research Associate, 2013, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado


My research aims to shed light on the natural and anthropogenic processes that influence the atmospheric branch of the water cycle. The motivation for this line of inquiry is to provide better constraints on how ecological systems respond to changes in water availability. The work involves reconstructions of past hydrological regimes using paleoclimate proxies to study how the climate system behaved prior to strong anthropogenic influences. In addition, satellite data and in situ observations of the water and carbon cycles are used to characterize the behavior of the system in real-time. Lastly, the research takes advantage of models of the climate and hydrological systems to help project how the water and carbon cycles will evolve in the future. Current projects are heavily focused on the use of water and carbon cycle tracers (e.g. HDO, H2 18 O and COS) to characterize exchanges of water and carbon between the land surface and the atmosphere. Examples of ongoing projects include work at Summit Station on top of the Greenland Ice sheet to study the exchange of water between the ice sheet and Arctic atmosphere and work at the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Observatory in the Rocky Mountains, which focuses on the water utilization patterns of forest ecosystems. Additional ongoing projects look at the tropical water cycle with an emphasis on long term trends in the Indian monsoon and how changes in the monsoon are related to the development of large convective systems in the Indian Ocean. Prior to pursuing a career in research, I worked as a high school teacher and maintain an active interest in science education in secondary schools. This work seeks to provide more hands-on research opportunities for high school students.

Selected Publications:

  • AP Williams, R. Seager, M. Berkelhammer, AK. Macalady, and others. Causes and implications of extreme atmospheric moisture demand during the record- breaking 2011 wildfire season in the southwest United States. (2014) Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. DOI: 10.1175/jamc-d-14-0053.1

  • M. Berkelhammer, D. Asaf, D. Yakir, C. Still, S. Montzka, D. Noone. (2014) Constraining surface carbon fluxes using in situ measurements of carbonyl sulfide and carbon dioxide. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. DOI:10.1002/2013GB004644.

  • M. Berkelhammer, A. Bailey, D. Noone, C. Still, H. Barnard (2013) The nocturnal water cycle in an open canopy forest. JGR-Atmospheres. DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50701

  • S. McCabe-Glynn, K. Johnson, C. Strong, M. Berkelhammer and others. (2013) Variable North Pacific influence on drought in southwestern North America since AD 854. Nature Geosciences. DOI:10.1038/ngeo1862

  • M. Berkelhammer, L. Stott. K. Yoshimura and K. Johnson. (2012). Synoptic and mesoscale controls on the isotopic composition of precipitation in the western United States. Climate Dynamics. DOI: 10.1007/s00382-011-1262-3

  • M. Berkelhammer and L. Stott. (2012) Secular temperature trends in the southern Rocky Mountains for the last five centuries. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2012GL052447

  • M. Berkelhammer, C. Risi, N, Kurita and D. Noone (2012) The moisture source sequence for the Madden Julian Oscillation derived from satellite HDO retrievals. Journal of Geophysical Research. DOI: 10.1029/2011jd016803

  • M. Berkelhammer, A. Sinha, L. Stott, H. Cheng, F. Pausata and K. Yoshimura (2012) An abrupt shift in the Indian Monsoon 4000 Years ago. Climate, Landscapes, and Civilization. AGU Monograph. DOI: 10.1029/2012gm/001207

  • Sinha, M. Berkelhammer, L. Stott, M. Mudelsee, H. Cheng, J. Biswas (2011) The leading mode of Indian Summer Monsoon precipitation variability during the last millennium. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2012GL052447

  • M. Berkelhammer, A Sinha, M. Mudelsee, H. Cheng, R. Edwards and K. Cannariato (2010) Persistent multidecadal power of the Indian Summer Monsoon. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.12.017

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Contact Information

Office: 2456 SES, MC 186
Phone: 312-413-8271
Fax: 312-413-2279