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The Pattern Effect: Coupling of SST Patterns, Radiative Feedbacks, and Climate Sensitivity Workshop

Boulder, CO and Virtual


An emergent subject in climate dynamics, the “pattern effect” describes the dependence of radiative feedbacks and climate sensitivity on  time-evolving sea surface temperature (SST) patterns The pattern effect is pronounced in General Circulation Models (GCMs), in which estimates of Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) drawn from simulations forced with observed SST patterns can be up to a factor of two lower than  the ECS of simulations of long-term warming. The magnitude and physics of the pattern effect however, have not yet been constrained from observations, and GCMs show a large spread. This uncertainty in the magnitude of the pattern effect is so substantial that a recent comprehensive assessment concluded that the observational record of Earth’s energy budget is unable to constrain the upper bound on ECS. Thus, uncertainty in the pattern effect presents one of the largest roadblocks to improved projections of future warming, both in the next decades and centuries.


The overarching goal of the workshop is to advance our understanding of the coupling between surface temperatures and radiative feedbacks and the origin and timescales of surface temperature pattern evolution. To that end, this workshop aims to

  1. Synthesize the different strands of discussion
  2. Bring together different communities with interest and insight into the pattern effect, including the climate sensitivity and cloud feedback, oceanography, remote sensing, climate modeling, paleoclimate, decadal prediction, and climate impacts communities
  3. Map out the most significant outstanding issues and propose novel ways to move forward

Target Participants

This workshop aims to bring together scientists from a number of communities that have interests and insights into sea surface temperature patterns and the radiative feedback “pattern effect.” Participants will include those already working on the feedback pattern effect, together with scientists from the oceanography, remote-sensing, climate modeling, paleoclimate, decadal prediction, and climate impacts communities. Limited travel support is available for students and early career scientists (within seven years of their most recent degree), with priority support for those at US institutions. A short application form will be provided during registration.

Date and Location

May 10-13, 2022 at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Center Green Campus in Boulder, Colorado, with an option for remote virtual participation. Should COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions prevent travel and large gatherings, the meeting will be held as 100% virtual.


The workshop will allow for plentiful time for targeted discussions on panels, in poster sessions, and breakout rooms. The goal of these discussions will be to map out the most significant outstanding issues and recommend pathways to advance the topic. These will be summarized in a project report and community piece to be submitted to EOS or BAMS. In addition, the workshop will advance and formalize one method the ongoing Green’s Function - Model Intercomparison Project,

Scientific Organizing Committee

Maria Rugenstein, Colorado State University (co-chair)
Cristian Proistosescu, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (co-chair)
Kyle Armour, University of Washington
Natalie Burls, George Mason University
Piers Forster, University of Leeds, UK
Jonathan Gregory, University of Reading and Met Office, UK
Sarah Kang, Ulsan National Institute, South Korea
Norman Loeb, NASA Langley Research Center
Bjorn Stevens, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany
Laure Zanna, New York University

Program Organizing Committee

Sam Coakley, US CLIVAR
Cyndie Graddy, US CLIVAR
Mike Patterson, US CLIVAR
Jennie Zhu, US CLIVAR


For questions on registration, COVID policies, and travel support status, please contact All other questions on the science and scope of the event contact Maria Rugenstein ( and Cristi Proistosescu (

Workshop Sponsors

Pattern Effect Workshop Sponsors

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of the US CLIVAR Program. These values will be reflected through the planning and execution of the workshop.

Meeting Menu



Poster Gallery




Abstract submission

Registration Fees

General Registration: $250

Early Career Scientist: $125

Virtual General Registration: $150

Virtual Early Career Scientist: $75



May 2, 2022

Abstract Submission

Poster abstracts: March 4, 2022