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. Complimenting 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


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

Recent Articles

Burls, N.J., Fedorov, A.V., Sigman, D.M., Jaccard, S.L., Tiedemann, R. and Haug, G.H., 2016: Deep water formation in the North Pacific during the warm Pliocene, Under Review.

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, In press, 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.

For a complete list please visit my personal webpage.