Toby R. Ault

Toby R. Ault

Director of Graduate Studies for Atmospheric Sciences
Associate Professor--Appointment is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)


Ault received his PhD from the University of Arizona in 2011, then completed an ASP postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Atmospheric Research from 2011-2013 before joining Cornell as an assistant professor.

Research Interests

Dr. Ault's research coalesces around three areas of inquiry related to emergent climate risks: (1) estimating the risk of prolonged drought under climate change; (2) understanding the dynamics of seasonality, particularly spring; and (3) characterizing variations in the Tropical Pacific on timescales of decades to centuries, and their influence on global climate. His methods entail data synthesis from observational sources as well as numerical and statistical modeling. The nature of his work is therefore highly interdisciplinary, affording him the opportunity to collaborate closely not only with climate scientists and modelers, but with colleagues in many other disciplines, including geography, paleoclimatology, and ecology.

Teaching Interests

Variations in tropical weather and climate; 21st-century megadrought risk in the American Southwest; energy and climate change.

Selected Publications

  • Ault, T. R. and St. George, S (2018): Unraveling the mysteries of megadrought. Physics Today (Cover) 71, 8, 44 (2018);
  • Ault, T. R., St. George, S., Smerdon, J. E., Coats, S., Mankin, J. S., Carrillo, C. M., Cook, B. I., Stevenson, S. (2018): A robust null hypothesis for the potential causes of megadrought in western North America. Journal of Climate, 31, 3–24, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0154.1.
  • Ault, T. R. (2017): Reconciling disparate views on decadal climate variability from proxies and models, PAGES Magazine, vol. 25(1), 68-70, doi:10.22498/pages.25.1.68.
  • Ault, Toby R. 2016. "Water resources: Island water stress." Nature Climate Change 6 (12): 1062-1063.
  • Ault, Toby R., Justin S. Mankin, Benjamin I. Cook, Jason E Smerdon. 2016. "Relative impacts of mitigation, temperature, and precipitation on 21st-century megadrought risk in the American Southwest." Science Advances 2 (10): e1600873.
  • Monahan, William B., Alyssa Rosemartin, Katharine L. Gerst, Nicholas A. Fisichelli, Toby R. Ault, Mark D. Schwartz, John E. Gross, Jake F. Weltzin. 2016. "Climate change is advancing spring onset across the US national park system." Ecosphere 7 (10): e01465.
  • Ault, Toby R., Zachary Labe, Raul Zurita-Milla. 2016. "Identifying anomalously early spring onsets in the CESM large ensemble project." Climate Dynamics 1-18.
  • Newman, Matthew, Michael A. Alexander, Toby R. Ault, Kim M. Cobb, Clara Deser, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Nathan J. Mantua, Arthur J. Miller, Hisashi Nakamura Shoshiro Minobe, Niklas Schneider, Daniel J. Vimont, Adam S. Phillips, James D. Scott, Catherine A. Smith. 2016. "The Pacific decadal oscillation, revisited." Journal of comparative neurology (29): 4399-4427.

Selected Awards and Honors

Faculty Fellow in Community Engaged Learning (Cornell Office of Engagement Initiatives) 2019