Prof. Mark A. Cane

Pronouns: he/him

G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences, Emeritus, Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Columbia Climate School

Special Research Scientist, Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

Oceanography 104D
61 Route 9W
Palisades, NY 10964


Like so many other oceanographers, I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the days before the Dodgers left and precipitated the decline of American civilization. I was lucky enough to work on the tropical oceans in the era when we came to understand and predict El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the now famous pattern of interannual climate variability with well-publicized global consequences. Together with then student Steve Zebiak, I devised the first numerical model able to simulate ENSO, and in 1985 we used this model to make the first physically based forecasts of El Niño. Over the years the Zebiak-Cane model has been the primary tool used by many investigators to enhance understanding of ENSO. Making predictions led to asking what to do with them. So I began to work on the impact of El Niño and other climate variability on human activity, especially agriculture and health. My 1994 paper (with student Gidon Eshel) on the strong effect of El Niño on the maize crop in Zimbabwe has been influential in prompting decision makers to consider climate variability. This line of inquiry led to the creation of the International Research Institute for  Climate and Society, housed here at Lamont. I also founded and directed the Masters Program in Climate and Society. While I continue to work on  equatorial dynamics, El Niño, prediction of climate variations and climate impacts, and global climate issues, current work is dominated by concern for the impacts of human influence on the climate system. IN addition to the futurre and the present , my interest is drawn to explaining the variations in the paleoclimate record, especially the astoundingly strong abrupt changes and the succession of droughts over the past millennium.


Only select publications listed below
Name Published Date
Persistent discrepancies between observed and modeled trends in the tropical Pacific Ocean 2022
Atmosphere-ocean dynamics of persistent cold states of the tropical Pacific Ocean 2021
Coupled mode of cloud, atmospheric circulation, and sea ice controlled by wave-3 pattern in Antarctic winter 2021
A quantitative hydroclimatic context for the European Great Famine of 1315-17 2020
Predictability in process-based ensemble forecast of influenza 2019
Strengthening tropical Pacific zonal sea surface temperature gradient consistent with rising greenhouse gases 2019
Climate and the Global Famine of 1876-78 2018
The Interconnected Global Climate System—A Review of Tropical–Polar Teleconnections 2018
Trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections pose a correlated risk to agriculture 2018
Commentary on the Syria case: Climate as a contributing factor 2017
Crop production variability in North and South America forced by life-cycles of the El Niño Southern Oscillation 2017
Is there a role for human-induced climate change in the precipitation decline that drove the California drought? 2017
Life cycles of agriculturally relevant ENSO teleconnections in North and South America 2017
Predictability and prediction of persistent cool states of the Tropical Pacific Ocean 2016
Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought 2015
The Annual Cycle of East African Precipitation 2015
The Rainfall Annual Cycle Bias over East Africa in CMIP5 Coupled Climate Models 2015
The East African Long Rains in Observations and Models 2014
Links between tropical rainfall and North Atlantic climate during the last glacial period 2013
Zonal Momentum Balance in the Tropical Atmospheric Circulation during the Global Monsoon Mature Months 2013
Adjustment of the atmospheric circulation to tropical Pacific SST anomalies: Variability of transient eddy propagation in the Pacific–North America sector 2010
Changes in storm tracks and energy transports in a warmer climate simulated by the GFDL CM2.1 model 2010
The role of linear wave refraction in the transient eddy-mean flow response to tropical Pacific SST anomalies 2010
Mexican drought: an observational modeling and tree ring study of variability and climate change 2009
An Experiment in Institutional Transformation: The NSF ADVANCE Program for Women at the Earth Institute at Columbia University 2005
Predictability of El Niño over the past 148 years 2004
Righting the Balance: Gender Diversity in the Geosciences 2003
Is the Gulf Stream responsible for Europe's mild winters? 2002
Current approaches to season-to-interannual climate prediction 2001
Enhanced sensitivity of persistent events to weak forcing in dynamical and stochastic systems: Implications for climate change 2001
Current Approaches to Seasonal to Interannual Climate Predictions 2000
On the Prediction of the El Niño of 1986-1987 1988
A Model EI Niño-Southern Oscillation 1987
El Niño 1986
Experimental forecasts of El Niño 1986
A Theory for El Niño and the Southern Oscillation 1985
Hindcasts of Sea Level Variations during the 1982–83 El Niño 1985
A Numerical Model for Low-Frequency Equatorial Dynamics 1984
Modeling Sea Level During El Niño 1984
Reflection of low-frequency equatorial waves at arbitrary western boundaries 1984
The Near Surface Equatorial Indian Ocean in 1979. Part I: Linear Dynamics 1984
A Model of the Semiannual Oscillation in the Equatorial Indian Ocean 1983
Equatorial oceanography 1983
Oceanographic Events During El Niño 1983
On Equatorial Dynamics, Mixed Layer Physics and Sea Surface Temperature 1983
A Note on Low-Frequency Equatorial Basin Modes 1981
On the Sensitivity of Numerical Weather Prediction to Remotely Sensed Marine Surface Wind Data: A Simulation Study 1981
On the dynamics of equatorial currents, with application to the Indian Ocean 1980


(Some of >250)


A model El Niño Southern Oscillation

SE Zebiak, MA Cane 1987

Monthly Weather Review 115 (10), 2262-2278

Analyses of global sea surface temperature 1856–1991

A Kaplan, MA Cane, Y Kushnir, AC Clement, MB Blumenthal, ...1998

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 103 (C9), 18567-18589

On the weakening relationship between the Indian monsoon and ENSO

KK Kumar, B Rajagopalan, MA Cane 1999

Science 284 (5423), 2156-2159

Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought

CP Kelley, S Mohtadi, MA Cane, R Seager, Y Kushnir 2015

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (11), 3241-3246

Experimental forecasts of EL Nino

MA Cane, SE Zebiak, SC Dolan 1986

Nature 321 (6073), 827-832

Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate

SM Hsiang, KC Meng, MA Cane 2011

Nature 476 (7361), 438-441

North American drought: Reconstructions, causes, and consequences

ER Cook, R Seager, MA Cane, DW Stahle 2007

Earth-Science Reviews 81 (1-2), 93-134

Unraveling the mystery of Indian monsoon failure during El Niño

KK Kumar, B Rajagopalan, M Hoerling, G Bates, M Cane 2006

Science 314 (5796), 115-119

Current approaches to seasonal to interannual climate predictions

L Goddard, SJ Mason, SE Zebiak, CF Ropelewski, R Basher, MA Cane 2001

International J. of Climatology 21, 1,111-1,152.

Oceanographic events during el nino

MA Cane 1983

Science 222 (4629), 1189-1195

A theory for El Niño and the Southern Oscillation

MA Cane, SE Zebiak 1985

Science 228 (4703), 1085-1087

Closing of the Indonesian seaway as a precursor to east African aridification around 3–4 million years ago

MA Cane, P Molnar 2001

Nature 411 (6834), 157-162

Twentieth-century sea surface temperature trends

MA Cane, AC Clement, A Kaplan, Y Kushnir, D Pozdnyakov, R Seager, ...1997

Science 275 (5302), 957-960