Thomas Spengler's picture

Thomas Spengler

Professor, Director of the Research School on Changing Climates in the coupled Earth System and President of the International Commission on Dynamical Meteorology
  • E-mailThomas.Spengler@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 98 46
  • Visitor Address
    Geophysical Institute
    Allegaten 70
    5020 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7803
    5020 BERGEN


I am a meteorologist focusing on the combination of theory, observations, and modelling, specialized on scales ranging from meso, synoptic, to large-scale flow and participated and coordinated several field campaigns.

Since 2015, I am the director of the RCN funded Norwegian Research School on Changing Climates in the Coupled Earth System (CHESS).

I am currently leading research projects focusing on atmosphere-ocean-ice interactions in higher latitudes as well as air-sea interactions and cyclone development in the midlatitude storm tracks.

In 2012 I was elected as a member of the International Commission for Dynamic Meteorology and was elected President of ICDM in 2019. From 2015-2019, I was the elected as Chair of the Atmospheric Working Group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

I was awarded the prize for best lecturer of the academic year 2012/2013 at the Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Bergen and nominated for the IAMAS early career scientist medal in 2013.

Research areas

  • Air-Ice-Sea Interactions in the Marginal Ice Zone
  • Jet Stream Dynamics and Variability
  • Polar Lows
  • Tropical-Extratropical Interactions
  • Teleconnections
  • Baroclinic and Diabatic Intensification of Extratropical Cyclones
  • Heat Lows
  • Orographic Slope and Valley Winds
  • Flow over and around Topography

I am leading a science outreach project together with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in which we feature four concerts as part of the regular concert series for the season 2019-2020. The themes of the four concerts are: Space, Ocean, Climate, and Humankind. More information about the project can be found on https://nestesteg.w.uib.no/.


Introduction to Methods in Weather Forecasting (GEOF321)

Dynamics of the Atmosphere (GEOF326)

Advanced Atmospheric Dynamics (GEOF352)

Mesoscale Dynamics (GEOF328)

Seminar in Atmospheric Sciences (GEOF351)

Polar Meteorology and Climate (AGF-213)

The Arctic Atmospheric Boundary Layer and Local Climate Processes (AGF-350)


Supervision of PhD students:

Kristine Flacké Haualand: Diabatic intensification of baroclinic evolution and the role of surface fluxes. 2016-2020

Leonidas Tsopouridis: Air-sea interaction processes in the Gulf Stream and Kurishio Rregions. 2016-2020

Clemens Spensberger: New approaches to investigate the influence of orographic and dynamic blocking on large-scale atmospheric flow. 2011-2015

Annick Terpstra: Dynamical perspectives on the formation and intensification of polar lows. 2011-2014

Mathew Reeve: Monsoon onset in Bangladesh: reconciling scientific and societal perspectives. 2010-2015

Stefan Keiderling: Jet Dynamics, Evolution, and Forcing. 2013-2017

Qi Kong: Interactions of Cyclones with steep Topography. 2011-2013


Supervision of Master students:

Kjersti Konstali: A Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean-Ice Mixed Layer Model for Cold Air Outbreaks. 2018-2019

Lars Andreas Selberg: Dynamics and Predictability of extreme winter storm Nina. 2015-2016

Kristine Flacké Haualand: Diabatic intensification of baroclinic evolution. 2015-2016

Ståle Dahl-Eriksen: Influence of SST gradients on cyclones and storm tracks. 2015-2016

Magnus Haukeland: Polar Low Climatology and Impact on Norway: Present and Future. 2015-2016

Musa Ssemujju: Early Season Rainfall in North-East Bangladesh. 2015-2016

Matthias Gottschalk: An idealized study on the influence of the sea ice edge on the development of polar lows. 2015

Ragnhild Nordhagen: Forecast Challenges associated with Cold Pools in Norwegian Valleys. 2013-2014

Linda Green: Influence of Surface Fluxes on Polar Low Development: Idealised Simulations. 2013-2014

Bas Creeze: Polar low detection and tracking. 2013

Trond Thorsteinsson: The development and evaluation of an idealized ocean model for the Bergen Dynamic Model. 2013

Angus Munro: What can flow deformation tell us about Rossby wave breaking in the atmosphere? 2012-2013

Espen Karlsen: Extreme precipitation in Norway: Present and Future Changes based on Regional Climate Simulations. 2012-2013

Stefan Keiderling: Low Level Jet Streams at the Sea Ice Edge - Numerical Simulations using WRF. 2012-2013

Cecilie Villanger: Exteme winds in Norway - an analysis based on observations and reanalyses. 2012-2013

Elin Tronvoll: Cyclone Interaction with the Topography of Greenland: A Catalog of Cyclone Motion. 2011-2012

Academic article
  • Show author(s) 2019. Prevailing Surface Wind Direction during Air-Sea Heat Exchange. Journal of Climate. 5601-5617.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Polar low workshop. Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society - (BAMS). ES89-ES92.
  • Show author(s) 2018. The North Atlantic waveguide and downstream impact experiment. Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society - (BAMS). 1607-1637.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Polar Mesoscale Cyclone Climatology for the Nordic Seas Based on ERA-Interim. Journal of Climate. 2511-2532.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Non-Uniqueness of Attribution in Piecewise Potential Vorticity Inversion. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 875-883.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Modification of Polar Low Development by Orography and Sea Ice. Monthly Weather Review. 3325-3341.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Synoptic Systems interacting with the Rocky Mountain Barrier: Observations and Theories. Monthly Weather Review. 783-794.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Polar Low Workshop Summary. Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society - (BAMS). ES139-ES142.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Inversion of potential vorticity density. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 801-807.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Structure of a shear-line polar low. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 12-26.
  • Show author(s) 2016. New Tools for Comparing Beliefs about the Timing of Recurrent Events with Climate Time Series Datasets. Weather, Climate, and Society. 493-506.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Forward and reverse shear environments during polar low genesis over the North East Atlantic. Monthly Weather Review. 1341-1354.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Diabatic heating and jet stream shifts: A case study of the 2010 negative North Atlantic Oscillation winter. Geophysical Research Letters. 9994-10,002.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Climatology of polar lows over the Sea of Japan using the JRA-55 reanalysis. Journal of Climate. 419-437.
  • Show author(s) 2016. A Lagrangian climatology of wintertime cold air outbreaks in the Irminger and Nordic seas and their role in shaping air-sea heat fluxes. Journal of Climate. 2717-2737.
  • Show author(s) 2015. Idealised simulations of polar low development in an Arctic moist-baroclinic environment. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 1987-1996.
  • Show author(s) 2015. Analysis of the slope of isentropic surfaces and its tendencies over the North Atlantic. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 3226-3238.
  • Show author(s) 2013. Reflection of Barotropic Rossby Waves in Sheared Flow and Validity of the WKB Approximation. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 2170-2178.
  • Show author(s) 2012. FLOHOF 2007: an overview of the mesoscale meteorological field campaign at Hofsjokull, Central Iceland. Meteorology and atmospheric physics (Print). 1-13.
  • Show author(s) 2011. The Norwegian IPY-THORPEX. Polar Lows and Arctic Fronts during the 2008 Andøya Campaign. Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society - (BAMS). 1443-1466.
  • Show author(s) 2011. How does rain affect surface pressure in a one-dimensional framework? Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 347-360.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Dynamics of Heat Lows over elevated terrain. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 250-263.
  • Show author(s) 2010. The Modulation of the Subtropical and Extratropical Atmosphere in the Pacific Basin in Response to the Madden Julian Oscillation. Monthly Weather Review. 2761-2779.
  • Show author(s) 2009. Thermally driven Flows at an asymmetric valley exit: Observations and Model Studies at the Lech Valley exit. Monthly Weather Review. 3437-3455.
  • Show author(s) 2009. Multi-event analysis of the westerly Greenland tip jet based upon 45 winters in ERA-40. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 1999-2011.
  • Show author(s) 2009. Comments on "Dry-Season Precipitation in Tropical West Africa and Its Relation to Forcing from the Extratropics". Monthly Weather Review. 3149-3150.
  • Show author(s) 2008. The dynamics of heat lows over flat terrain. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 2157-2172.
  • Show author(s) 2005. The Dynamics of Heat Lows in Simple Background Flows. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 3147-3166.
  • Show author(s) 2002. The Prediction of low-level convergence lines over northeastern Australia. Australian meteorological magazine. 13-23.
  • Show author(s) 2016. High-latitude dynamics of atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions. Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society - (BAMS). ES179-ES182.
Academic literature review
  • Show author(s) 2019. The Iceland Greenland seas project. Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society - (BAMS). 1795-1817.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

Unifying Perspectives on Atmosphere-Ocean Interactions during Cyclone Development (UNPACC)

2017-2020 (10 Mio NOK)


Extratropical cyclones are a key feature of the mid-latitude climate and weather, where unresolved mesoscale air-sea interactions are thought to play a crucial role in their genesis and intensification, yielding model uncertainties and forecast challenges. Understanding these mesoscale interactions between ocean sea surface temperature fronts, ocean eddies, and the atmosphere is thus essential for understanding the role of diabatic processes in extratropical cyclones and constraining uncertainty.

While recent studies highlight the importance of mesoscale air-sea interactions for the development and intensification of cyclones, we are still lacking a theoretical framework unifying moist baroclinic and frontal-wave instability under the influence of air-sea interaction and diabatic processes. How do oceanic fronts and eddies influence the genesis and intensification of cyclones? What is the role of mesoscale air-sea interaction processes for the upscale growth of instabilities? Can such instabilities trigger or inhibit the intensification of extratropical cyclones? What are the underlying mechanisms for diabatic amplification of energy conversion in extratropical cyclones?

We will establish an innovative collaboration in atmospheric dynamics and air-sea interactions by combining key and complementary expertise from the Universities of Bergen, Monash (Australia), East Anglia (UK), Texas A&M (USA), Tokyo (Japan) as well as ECMWF (UK). The central goal of the collaboration is to elucidate and quantify the mechanisms responsible for extratropical cyclone intensification associated with mesoscale air-sea interactions. Our approach utilizes novel detection routines on high-resolution coupled model datasets and reanalyzes as well as idealized and real case simulations. As the integrated framework is grounded in fundamental dynamics, we expect UNPACC to yield a unified framework for moist frontal-baroclinic instability theory including the influence of air-sea interactions.

Employment history

2014–today Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway: Professor for Dynamic Meteorology

Jul-Dec 2015 School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK: Visiting Research Scientist

2010–2014 Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway: Associate Professor for Dynamic Meteorology

2009–2011 Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA Postdoctoral: Research Associate

Feb 2009 Monash Weather and Climate, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia: Visiting Scientist

2008-2009 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland: Postdoctoral Research Assistant

2005–2008 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland: Doctoral Research Assistant

2004-2005 Meteorological Institute Munich, University of Munich, Germany: Research assistant


Professional Organisations

2011–today International Commission on Dynamic Meteorology (ICDM) of the International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS), since 2019 elected presidenc of ICDM

2013–today Atmospheric Working Group (AWG) of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), from 2015 until 2019 elected Chair of the AWG


Awards and Nominations

2013 Best Lecturer at the Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Bergen

2013 Nominee for the IAMAS Early Career Science Medal

Research groups