Profile: Natalie Burls


Assistant Professor

website: My personal webpage
office: 273 Research Hall, Fairfax Campus
tel: 703-993-5756



My research is focused on improving our understanding of the key processes determining Earth’s climate and climate variability on a variety of timescales ranging from seasonal, to decadal, to much longer geological scales. In particular, I am interested in the climatic role of ocean general circulation, ocean-atmosphere interactions and cloud dynamics.

My research efforts acknowledge that, to fully understand, model and predict changes in climate characteristics that have a large impact on society (especially temperature and precipitation patterns), a fully coupled ocean-atmosphere perspective is needed – one that accounts for changes in important variables such as the thermal structure of the slowly-adjusting ocean. Complementing observations with theory, I endeavor to accompany complex simulations of climate phenomena with simple models capturing the essential dynamics required to explain unanswered questions within climate science.

I received my PhD in Physical Oceanography from the University of Cape Town in 2010. From 2011 to 2014, I worked as a postdoctoral associate in the department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University. I joined Mason as an assistant professor in January 2015.

For more information please visit my personal webpage.

Recent Publications

Recent Articles

Burls, N. J., Blamey, R. C., Cash, B. A., Swenson, E. T., Fahad, A. al, Bopape, M.-J. M.,Straus D. M., Reason C. J. C. (2019). The Cape Town “Day Zero” drought and Hadley cell expansion. Npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 2(1), 1–8, doi:s41612-019-0084-6

Wang, Z., Schneider, E. K. and Burls, N. J., 2019: The sensitivity of climatological SST to Mixed Layer Depth. Climate Dynamics, 1–15, doi:s00382-019-04892-0

Kodama, K., & Burls, N. J. (2019). An empirical adjusted ENSO ocean energetics framework based on observational wind power in the tropical Pacific. Climate Dynamics, doi:10.1007/s00382-019-04701-8

Cash B., & Burls, N. J. (2019) Predictable and Unpredictable Aspects of US West Coast Rainfall and El Niño: Understanding the 2015-2016 Event. Journal of Climate, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0181.1

Erfani, E., & Burls, N. J. (2019). The Strength of Low-Cloud Feedbacks and Tropical Climate: A CESM Sensitivity Study. Journal of Climate,   

Burls, N. J., & Fedorov, A. V. 2017: Wetter subtropics in a warmer world: contrasting past and future hydrological cycles, PNAS,  published ahead of print November 20, 2017doi:10.1073/pnas.1703421114 

Burls, N.J., Fedorov, A.V., Sigman, D.M., Jaccard, S.L., Tiedemann, R. and Haug, G.H., 2017: Active Pacific meridional overturning circulation (PMOC) during the warm Pliocene, Science Advances, 3, e1700156.

Burls N.J., Muir L., Vincent E.M., and Fedorov A.V., 2016: Extra-tropical origin of equatorial Pacific cold bias in climate models with links to cloud albedo, Climate Dynamics, 49: 2093-2113, doi:10.1007/s00382-016-3435-6.

Fedorov, A.V., Burls N.J., Lawrence K.T., and Peterson L.C., 2015: Tightly linked ocean zonal and meridional temperature gradients over the past 5 million years, Nature Geoscience, 8, 975–980, doi:10.1038/ngeo2577.

Burls, N. J., and A. V. Fedorov, 2014b: Simulating Pliocene warmth and a permanent El Niño-like state: the role of cloud albedo, Paleoceanography, 29(10), 893-910, doi:10.1002/2014PA002644.

Luebbecke, J.F., N.J. Burls, C.J.C. Reason, M.J. McPhaden, 2014: Variability in the South Atlantic Anticyclone and the Atlantic Nino mode, Journal of Climate, 27, 8135–8150. doi:

Burls, N. J., and A. V. Fedorov, 2014a: What controls the mean east-west sea surface temperature gradient in the equatorial Pacific: the role of cloud albedo, Journal of Climate, 27(7), 2757-2778,

Burls, N. J., C. J. C. Reason, P. Penven, and S. G. Philander, 2012: Energetics of the Tropical Atlantic Zonal Mode. Journal of Climate, 25, 7442-7466,  doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00602.1.

Burls, N. J., C. J. C. Reason, P. Penven, and S. G. Philander, 2011: Similarities between the tropical Atlantic seasonal cycle and ENSO: an energetics perspective. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, C11010, doi:10.1029/2011JC007164.


Brierley, C., N. Burls, C., Ravelo and A. Fedorov, 2015: Pliocene warmth and gradients, Nature Geoscience, 8 (6), 419-420, doi:10.1038/ngeo2444.

For a complete list please visit my personal webpage.