2010 Physical Sciences Review » Biographies » Gilbert P. Compo

Gilbert P. Compo

Gilbert P. Compo

Gilbert P. Compo

Research Scientist III

Physical Sciences Division


Dr. Compo is a CIRES research scientist studying atmospheric and oceanic variations ranging from climate change to storm tracks using climate models, observational and reanalysis datasets. He co-leads the development of historical reanalysis ensemble-based techniques and the recovery of the historical observations to extend reanalysis back to the 18th century. With these and other datasets, he studies the role of the oceans in observed climate change and climate variability and the influence of El Niño/Southern Oscillation on these variations. He is particularly focused on developing and improving techniques to assess changes in the risk of extreme and high-impact weather.


  • Ph.D., Astrophysical,Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1997
  • M.S., Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1994
  • Certificate, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1994
  • B.S., Physics, Duke University, 1992

Research Interests

I study the effect of time-varying sea surface temperatures and atmospheric constituents on the probability distribution of atmospheric variables such as wind, temperature, and precipitation. I am interested in how and why these distributions are altered in their mean, variance, skewness, and higher moments associated with altered risks of extreme and high-impact weather. I am particularly interested in how the El Niño/Southern Oscillation influences secular trends and decadal variations in these risks. To generate longer datasets with which to address these topics, I am interested in extending ensemble-based retrospective data assimilation (reanalysis) to the 19th and 18th centuries.


Using a state-of-the-art data assimilation system developed at ESRL and CIRES and a new international collection of surface pressure observations, the Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project has generated a six-hourly, four-dimensional global atmospheric dataset spanning 1891 to 2007 to place current atmospheric circulation patterns into a historical perspective. Recently, Dr. P. Sardeshmukh and I suggested that the recent observed land warming is occurring primarily through a hydrodynamic-radiative teleconnection associated with the warming of the world oceans and not directly from increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. At CU, Dr. C. Torrence and I developed software and statistical significance testing for wavelet analysis.

Recent Publications

  • Compo,G.P., J.S. Whitaker, and P.D. Sardeshmukh, 2006: Feasibility of a 100 year reanalysis using only surface pressure data. Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 87, 175-190.
  • Compo,G.P., and P.D. Sardeshmukh, 2009: Oceanic influences on recent continental warming. Climate Dynamics, 32, 333-342, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-008-0448-9.
  • Compo,G.P., and P.D. Sardeshmukh, 2009: Removing ENSO-related variations from the climate record. J. Climate, in press.
  • Giese, B.S., G.P.Compo, NC Slowey, P.D. Sardeshmukh, J.A. Carton, S. Ray, and J.S. Whitaker, 2009: The 1918/1919 El Nino. Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., in press, DOI: 10.1175/2009BAMS2903.1.
  • Whitaker, J.S., G.P.Compo, and J.-N. Thepaut, 2009: A comparison of variational and ensemble-based data assimilation systems for reanalysis of sparse observations. Mon. Wea. Rev., 137, 1991-1999.