James A Screen

2023 United Kingdom Award Finalist — Faculty

James A Screen

Current Position:
Professor of Climate Science

University of Exeter

Climate Science

Recognized for: Transforming our understanding of the rapid climate warming in the Arctic and its effects on the global climate, and informing the United Nations and governments on these topics.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Climate, Ocean, Climate

Previous Positions:

BSc, Lancaster University
MSc, University of Birmingham
PhD, University of East Anglia
Postdoc, University of Melbourne, Australia
NERC Research Fellow, University of Exeter

Research Summary:

Human activities have unequivocally caused global warming, but this warming is not felt evenly across the planet. The Arctic is warming three to four times faster than the global average, causing sea level rise, environmental changes, and natural hazards. Nevertheless, there is a key knowledge gap regarding the impact of this rapid Arctic warming on weather patterns in places far-away from the Arctic. James Screen, PhD, has transformed our understanding on this topic by clarifying some of the long-debating questions.

Screen’s work rebutted a once-popular notion that the Arctic sea-ice loss is responsible for the increased frequency of cold extremes in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere over the last two decades. Using a novel and robust physics-based approach, Screen demonstrated that Arctic warming leads to fewer cold days in the northern hemisphere. He has also shifted the paradigm in explaining how Arctic warming reshapes global jet streams—relatively narrow bands of strong winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere—and therefore causes different types of extreme weather over different geographical regions. 

Screen has contributed to several reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has played a pivotal role in informing governments on how global warming will determine the fate of the Arctic sea ice. In particular, he showed that global warming of 2°C above preindustrial levels will cause ice-free summers in the Arctic once every three to five years or so. However, limiting warming to no more than 1.5°C will drastically reduce the frequency of ice-free summers to around once every 40 years. Taken together, his research will continue to influence climate science and the planet for many years to come.

The Arctic is warming due to human activities. How Arctic warming might affect weather around the world is not well known. It’s inspiring to work on this ‘hot’ topic and with great collaborators, without whom this work would not have been possible.

Key Publications: 

  1. A. Screen. Arctic Amplification Decreases Temperature Variance in Northern Mid- to High-Latitudes. Nature Climate Change, 2014.
  2. A. Screen, I. Simmonds. Amplified Mid-Latitude Planetary Waves Favour Particular Regional Weather Extremes. Nature Climate Change, 2014.
  3. A. Screen, C. Deser, D.M. Smith, X. Zhang, R. Blackport, P.J. Kushner, T. Oudar, K.E. McCusker, L. Sun. Consistency and Discrepancy in The Atmospheric Response to Arctic Sea Ice Loss Across Climate Models. Nature Geoscience, 2018.
  4. Blackport, J.A. Screen, K. van der Wiel, R. Bintanja. Minimal Influence of Reduced Arctic Sea Ice on Coincident Cold Winters in Mid-Latitudes. Nature Climate Change, 2019.

Other Honors: 

2019—2021 Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher
2015 Phillip Leverhulme Prize
2014 Early Career Scientist Medal, International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, 2014

In the Media: 

Scientific American – Arctic Snow Is Shifting to Rain as Temperatures Rise

The Washington Post – Arctic Climate Change May Not Be Making Winter Jet Stream Weird after All

BBC News – UK Weather: Is hot February Down to Climate Change?

Scientific American – Storm-Steering Jet Stream Could Shift Poleward in 40 Years

SciTechDaily – Arctic Sea-Ice Loss Has ‘Minimal Influence’ on Severe Cold Winter Weather