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., 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.

For a complete list please visit my personal webpage.