Nikki Lovenduski


  • Assistant Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences



  • PhD: University of California at Los Angeles, 2007
  • MS: University of California at Los Angeles, 2003
  • BA: Washington University in St. Louis, 2001

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-5259

Campus Box 450
Boulder, CO 80309-0450


Marine carbon cycle, climate variability, ocean modeling.

Research Interests

Modeling and observation of ocean biogeochemistry; polar climate change and its impact on the oceans; global carbon cycle dynamics; global climate modeling.


  • Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, American Geophysical Union (Geophysical Research Letters), 2015
  • Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, American Geophysical Union (Global Biogeochemical Cycles), 2012
  • Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, NOAA, 2007
  • Bjerknes Memorial Award, University of California at Los Angeles, 2006
  • Earth System Science Graduate Research Fellowship, NASA, 2005
  • Brian Lance Bosart Memorial Award, University of California at Los Angeles, 2004


Research Statement

Go To Ocean Biogeochemistry Research Group Homepage

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased exponentially, driving increases in global atmospheric temperature.  Only about half of the CO2 emitted from anthropogenic activities has remained in the atmosphere; the other half has been taken up by natural carbon sinks: the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere.  The global ocean has absorbed ~35% of the CO2 released by human activities since 1765. In the absence of this oceanic CO2 uptake, atmospheric CO2 concentrations would likely be much higher, and atmospheric temperatures would likely be warmer.  Quantifying and understanding the uptake of CO2 by the ocean is a necessary step for making accurate predictions of future climate change.

My research aims to improve our understanding of the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle by investigating the physical, chemical, and biological processes controlling air-sea CO2 exchange.  I study how these processes operated in the past, how they function today, and how they might respond to anthropogenic climate change in the future.  To do this, I employ a hierarchy of ocean and Earth system models along with satellite and in situ observations.

The major focus of my research thus far has been the exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and the Southern Ocean, a large oceanic region stretching from the Antarctic continent to the subtropics of the Southern Hemisphere. The Southern Ocean is a region of critical importance to the global carbon cycle, as it is responsible for approximately half of the oceanic CO2 uptake.  My research has helped to show that the absorption of CO2 by the Southern Ocean may have slowed in recent decades, due to anthropogenic changes in the climate system.


Active Research

Research Labs and Groups



Nikki Lovenduski, McKinley, G. A., Fay, A. R., Lindsay, K., Long, M. C., 2016: Partitioning uncertainty in ocean carbon uptake projections: Internal variability, emission scenario, and model structure. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 30(9): 1276-1287. DOI: 10.1002/2016GB005426

Natalie Freeman, Nikki Lovenduski, 2016: Mapping the Antarctic Polar Front: Weekly realizations from 2002 to 2014, links to NetCDF file and MPEG4 movie. PANGAEA data set. Supplement to Earth System Science Data, 8(1): 191-198. doi:10.5194/essd-8-191-2016 DOI: 10.1594/PANGAEA.855640

McKinley, G. A., Pilcher, D. J., Fay, A. R., Lindsay, K., Long, M. C., Nikki Lovenduski, 2016: Timescales for detection of trends in the ocean carbon sink. Nature, 530: 469-472. DOI: 10.1038/nature16958

All publications by Nikki Lovenduski >



Current Courses

  • ATOC 1060: Our Changing Environment Discusses Earth's climate for non-science majors.

Past Courses

  • ATOC/GEOL 3070: Introduction to Oceanography Investigates the broad-scale features of the Earth's oceans. Covers physical, chemical, and biological oceanography.
  • ATOC 4200/5200: Biogeochemical Oceanography Provides a large-scale synthesis of the processes impacting ocean biogeochemistry.
  • ATOC 5300: The Global Carbon Cycle Covers the role of the ocean, land surface, and atmosphere in the global carbon cycle.
  • ATOC 6020: Oceanography Seminar A weekly seminar covering topics in oceanography and ocean-focused climate science.

Postdocs & Students

Current Postdocs

David Munro David Munro, Research Associate Dave is analyzing carbon and nutrient data from the Drake Passage transect program in the Southern Ocean, and placing these data into a larger spatiotemporal context.

Current Students

Riley Brady Riley Brady, PhD Student Riley is investigating the biogeochemistry of Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems using output from an ensemble of simulations with a single climate model.
Natalie Freeman Natalie Freeman, NSF Graduate Research Fellow Natalie is mapping the Antarctic Polar Front in the Southern Ocean using satellite products and output from climate models. She is interested in how the position of the front affects Southern Ocean phytoplankton biogeography.
Kristen Krumhardt Kristen Krumhardt, PhD student Kristen is investigating the representation of phytoplankton calcification in Earth System Models in order to better predict the ocean ecosystem response to future climate change.

Former Students

Chris Conrad Chris Conrad, M.S. 2014 in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Chris earned his Master's degree in 2014. He studied the impact of climate variability on the Southern Ocean carbonate system.