Research Interests

  • Land model development and assessment for climate change, mitigation, and adaptation research
  • Northern high-latitude terrestrial climate change feedbacks
  • Land-use and land-cover change and land management impacts and feedbacks on climate, water, and carbon cycles
  • Land-atmosphere interaction
  • Land-based climate mitigation solutions


David Lawrence is a Senior Scientist in the Terrestrial Science Section of NCAR’s Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory. He received a B.S. in physics from the University of California at San Diego and a Ph.D. in Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences from the University of Colorado before completing a postdoc at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom with Julia Slingo. David has been at NCAR since 2004.

David's research interests center around land surface processes and their interactions with climate and climate change. He has a long-standing interest in Arctic terrestrial climate system feedbacks, including the impact of projected permafrost degradation on carbon, water, and energy cycles. He is also involved in research into the impacts of land-use and land-cover change on regional climate and carbon and water cycles. This includes research into the effectiveness and climate impact of land-based climate mitigation solutions (e.g., reforestation or avoided deforestation, bioenergy production). Additional activities and areas of interest include land-atmosphere interactions, land model assessment, improving the representation of hydrology in Earth System models, and the impact of fire on climate.

He served as co-chair of the Land Model Working Group of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) for 14 years and as a member of the CESM Scientific Steering Committee for the 10 years. During this period, David oversaw the growth of the LMWG into one of the most active and engaged working groups within CESM. David was the coordinating developer of several versions of the Community Land Model (CLM) including CLM3.5, CLM4, CLM4.5, and CLM5. He is a co-lead of the Community Terrestrial Systems Model (CTSM) project, an effort to unify and advance land models across NCAR for use in climate, weather, water, and ecosystem research and prediction. He is a co-lead of the Land Use Model Intercomparison Project (LUMIP), one of the CMIP6 MIPs. He is currently serving as the Model Development Liaison for the Learning the Earth with Artificial intelligence and Physics (LEAP) NSF STC. He is a lead developer of the International Land Model Benchmarking (ILAMB) package, a topical editor of the journal Geoscientific Model Development, a co-chair of the Permafrost Carbon Network Model Integration Group, and a member of the GEWEX Global Land-Atmosphere System Study (GLASS) panel.