Bette Otto-Bliesner is a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado and Deputy Director of the NCAR Climate and Global Dynamics (CGD) Laboratory. She received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joined NCAR in 1995, coming from a faculty position in the Geology Department at the University of Texas at Arlington. Bette serves as the head of NCAR’s Paleoclimate Modeling Program. She was the first co-chair of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Paleoclimate Working Group serving for 18 years and guiding the development and use of the many versions of CESM to investigate past climates.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Bette first became interested in Meteorology as a child watching P.J. Hoff, the CBS affiliate weatherman. Shortly after earning her doctorate, she redirected her focus from modeling present climate to modeling past climates, starting with her pioneering work with John Kutzbach on orbital forcing of the African-Asian monsoon during the Holocene. Since this trail-blazing simulation, Bette has investigated past climate change and climate variability across a wide range of time scales, including the Carboniferous (300 million years ago), Cretaceous (66 million years ago), Eocene (50 million years ago), Pliocene (3 million years ago), Last Interglacial (130,00 to 119,000 years ago), Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 years ago), Last Deglaciation (17,000 to 8000 years ago), mid-Holocene (6000 years ago), and the Last Millennium (850 CE to present).

Bette’s current research projects combine insights from paleoclimate data and CESM paleoclimate simulations to provide insights into future weather and climate extremes and tipping points. Paleoclimate provides real-world data for a higher CO2 world, including the frequency and intensity of extreme events, and the stability of the ice sheets, tropical forests, and permafrost. Bette is using high-resolution versions of CESM to simulate the past weather and climate extremes at regional scale and to study the physics driver for the changes of extreme events with the global climate change. Additionally, she is leading the development of a CMIP7 set of What-If scenarios to explore the local and remote impacts if the Earth system crosses tipping points, such as the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet or the dieback of the Amazon rainforest.

Bette has been involved in the IPCC Working Group I report since the Third Assessment and was a Lead Author for the IPCC AR4 and AR5. She served as the Chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Past Global Changes (PAGES). Bette is currently co-leading the High-Risk Theme of the WCRP Safe Landing Climates Lighthouse Activity. She is a member of the Scientific Steering Committee for the Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP) and the Deep-Time Model Intercomparison Project (DeepMIP), projects that coordinate international climate model experiments addressing past climate change relevant to understanding future change. She remains active in the CESM Paleoclimate Working Group.

Research Interests

Past-to-Future: Taking advantage of Earth system model simulations and proxy data
  • High-resolution modeling
  • Hydroclimate variability and extremes
  • Forcings of and feedbacks in the climate system
  • Tipping points and What-If scenarios
  • Climate - Ice Sheet interactions

Selected Awards

  • Fellow of the American Meteorological Society
  • Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) View Citation
  • European Geophysical Union Milutin Milankovic Medal View Citation
  • AGU Cesare Emiliani Lecture Award
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2007, joint award to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore Jr. More information
  • Fremd High School Distinguished Graduate, Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Science
  • Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison. More information

Selected Video Presentations

2023 Milutin Milankovic Medal. “Milankovitch cycles and the Arctic: insights from past interglacials“, EGU, April 2023
2022 A Celebration of John Kutzbach (1937-2021). “Celebrating John Kutzbach & His Career: Hindcasting the Past with Climate Models” University of Wisconsin, Madison.
2016 Emiliani Lecture: Bette Otto-Bliesner, Title: "Resolving Some Puzzles of Climate Evolution Since the Last Glacial Maximum: A Melding of Paleoclimate Modeling and Data"
2021 Workshop Talk: Climate Change in the Geologic Record, The Geological Society: "How can the geological record be used to evaluate climate models?"

Selected Publications

Last Millennium

Otto-Bliesner, B. L., E. C. Brady, J. Fasullo, A. Jahn, L. Landrum, S. Stevenson, N. Rosenbloom, A. Mai, and G. Strand, 2016: Climate variability and change since 850 CE: An ensemble approach with the Community Earth System Model, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 97(5), 735-754, doi:10.1175/bams-d-14-00233.1

Landrum, L., B.L. Otto-Bliesner, E.R. Wahl, A. Conley, P.J. Lawrence, N. Rosenbloom, and H. Teng, 2013: Last Millennium climate and its variability in CCSM4. Journal of Climate, 26, 1085-1111

Fasullo, J.T., R. Tomas, S. Stevenson, B. Otto-Bliesner, E. Brady, E. Wahl, 2017: The amplifying influence of increased ocean stratification on a future year without a summer, Nature Communications, 8, 1236, doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01302-z.

Stevenson, S., J.T. Fasullo, B.L. Otto-Bliesner, R.A. Tomas, and C.C. Gao, 2017: Role of eruption season in reconciling model and proxy responses to tropical volcanism, PNAS, 11, 1822-1826.

Miller, G. H., A. Geirsdottir, Y. Zhong, D. J. Larsen, B. L. Otto-Bliesner, M. M. Holland, D. A. Bailey, K. A. Refsnider, S. J. Lehman, J. R. Southon, C. Anderson, H. Bjornsson, and T. Thordarson, 2012: Abrupt onset of the Little Ice Age triggered by volcanism and sustained by sea-ice/ocean feedbacks, Geophysical Research Letters, 39, doi:10.1029/2011gl050168

Zhong, Y., G. H. Miller, B. L. Otto-Bliesner, M. M. Holland, D. A. Bailey, D. P. Schneider, and A. Geirsdottir, 2011: Centennial-scale climate change from decadally-paced explosive volcanism: a coupled sea ice-ocean mechanism, Climate Dynamics, 37(11-12), 2373-2387, doi:10.1007/s00382-010-0967-z

Last 21,000 Years

Zhu, J., Otto-Bliesner, B., Brady, E., Poulsen, C.J., Shaw, J.K., Kay, J.E. (2022). LGM paleoclimate constraints inform cloud parameterizations and equilibrium climate sensitivity in CESM2. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems,14(4), e2021MS002776.

Gregoire, L. J., B. Otto-Bliesner, P. J. Valdes, and R. Ivanovic, 2016: Abrupt Bølling warming and ice saddle collapse contributions to the Meltwater Pulse 1a rapid sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letter*, 43(17), 9130-9137, doi:10.1002/2016gl070356.

Otto-Bliesner, B.L., J.M. Russell, P.U. Clark, Z. Liu, J.T. Overpeck, B. Konecky, P. deMenocal, S.E. Nicholson, F. He, Z. Lu, 2014: Coherent changes of southeastern equatorial and northern African rainfall during the last deglaciation. Science, 346, 1223-1227.

Brady, E. C., B. L. Otto-Bliesner, J. E. Kay, and N. Rosenbloom, 2013: Sensitivity to Glacial Forcing in the CCSM4, Journal of Climate, 26(6), 1901-1925, doi:10.1175/jcli-d-11-00416.1.

Wagner, A.J., C. Morrill, B.L. Otto-Bliesner, N. Rosenbloom, and K.R. Watkins, 2013: Model support for forcing of the 8.2 ka event by meltwater from the Hudson bay ice dome. Climate Dynamics, 41, 2855-2873, doi: 10.1007/s00382-013-1706-z.

Otto-Bliesner, B.L., and E.C. Brady, 2010: The sensitivity of the climate response to the magnitude and location of freshwater forcing: last glacial maximum experiments. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29, 56-73.

Liu, Z., Otto-Bliesner, B.L. et al., 2009: Transient simulation of last deglaciation with a new mechanism for Bølling-Allerød warming, Science, 325, 310-314.

Otto-Bliesner, B.L., E.C. Brady, G. Clauzet, R. Tomas, S. Levis, and Z. Kothavala, 2006: Last Glacial Maximum and Holocene climate in CCSM3. Journal of Climate, 19, 2526-2544.


Sommers, A.N., B.L. Otto-Bliesner, W.H. Lipscomb, Lofverstrom, M., S.L. Shafer, P.J. Bartlein, E.C. Brady, E. Kluzek, G. Leguy, K. Thayer-Calder, R.A. Tomas, 2022: Retreat and regrowth of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the Last Interglacial as simulated by the CESM2-CISM2 coupled climate-ice sheet model. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 36. DOI: 10.1029/2021PA004272.

Otto-Bliesner, B.L., E.C. Brady et al., 2020: A comparison of the CMIP6 midHolocene and lig127k simulations in CESM2. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 35, DOI: 10.1029/2020PA003957.

Lofverstrom, M., D.M. Thompson, B.L. Otto-Bliesner, and E.C. Brady, 2022: The importance of Canadian Arctic gateways for glacial expansion in Scandanavia. Nature Geoscience, 15, 482-488. doi:10.1038/s41561-022-00956-9.

Past Interglacials Working Group of PAGES, 2016: Interglacials of the last 800,000years, Reviews of Geophysics, 54(1), 162-219, doi:10.1002/2015rg000482.

Otto-Bliesner, B. L., N. Rosenbloom, E. J. Stone, N. McKay, D. Lunt, E. C. Brady, and J. T. Overpeck, 2013: How well do models reproduce Last Interglacial warmth? New model-data comparisons, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 371, 20130097, 10.1098.

Otto-Bliesner, B.L., S. Marshall, J. Overpeck, G. Miller, A. Hu, and CAPE Last Interglacial Project Members, 2006: Simulating Arctic climate warmth and icefield retreat in the last interglaciation. Science, 311, 1751-1753.

Overpeck, J.T., B.L. Otto-Bliesner, G.H. Miller, D.R. Muhs, R. Alley, J.T. Kiehl, 2006: Paleoclimatic evidence for future ice sheet instability and rapid sea level rise. Science, 311, 1747-175.

Kutzbach, J. E. and B. L. Otto-Bliesner, 1982: The sensitivity of the African-Asian monsoonal climate to orbital parameter changes for 9000 yr B.P. in a low-resolution general circulation model. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 39, 1177-1188.

Deeper Past

Zhu, J., C.J. Poulsen, and B.L. Otto-Bliesner, 2020: High climate sensitivity in CMIP6 model not supported by paleoclimate. Nature Climate Change, 10, 378-379.

Feng, J., B. Otto-Bliesner, E. Brady, and N. Rosenbloom, 2020: Increased climate response and Earth System Sensitivity from CCSM4 to CESM2 in Mid-Pliocene simulations, Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 12. DOI: 10.1029/2019MS002033.

Tierney, J.E. et al., 2020: Past climates inform our future. Science, 370. DOI: 10.1126/science.aay3701.

Otto-Bliesner, B. L., A. Jahn, R. Feng, E. C. Brady, A. Hu, and M. Lofverstrom, 2016: Amplified North Atlantic warming in the late Pliocene by changes in Arctic gateways. Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, doi:10.1002/2016GL071805.

Tabor, C. R., C. J. Poulsen, D. J. Lunt, N. A. Rosenbloom, B. L. Otto-Bliesner, P. J. Markwick, E. C. Brady, A. Farnsworth, and R. Feng, 2016: The cause of Late Cretaceous cooling: A multimodel-proxy comparison, Geology, 44(11), 963-966, doi:10.1130/g38363.1.

Rosenbloom, N.A., B. L. Otto-Bliesner, E. C. Brady, and P. J. Lawrence, 2013: Simulating the mid-Pliocene Warm Period with the CCSM4 model. Geoscientific Model Development, 6, 549-561.

Otto-Bliesner, B.L., E.C. Brady, and C. Shields, 2002: Late Cretaceous ocean: Coupled simulations with the National Center for Atmospheric Research Climate System Model. Journal of Geophysical Research, 107, 10.1029/2001JD000821.

Otto-Bliesner, B. L., and G. R. Upchurch, Jr., 1997: Vegetation-induced warming of high latitudes during the latest Cretaceous. Nature, 385, 804-807l

Otto-Bliesner, B. L., 1996: Initiation of a continental ice sheet in a global climate model (GENESIS). Journal of Geophysical Research, 101, 16909-16920.