Training the next generation of climate scientists
Climate Science for Society

Karen Smith

Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream

Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

University of Toronto Scarborough

About Me

I am an Assistant Professor, Teaching-Stream in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough and am the Director of the Master of Environmental Science Program in Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation. My research focuses on climate and atmospheric variability of the mid-latitude and polar regions.

I am passionate about promoting climate science literacy: I serve as Chair of the School and Public Education Committee of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and I also co-host a podcast about climate change and conservation called Emerging Environments.

My complete CV can be found here


I study the variability of the atmosphere and climate using a hierarchy of numerical climate models and statistical techniques. These are my main research topics.

Polar Climate and Climate Change

The climate of the polar regions is undergoing unprecedented change as a result of human-caused increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. In the Arctic, the surface has warmed at approximately twice the rate of the global mean and sea ice extent has dramtically declined. In the Antarctic, the effect of stratospheric ozone depletion has also had a profound effect on the regional climate. A better understanding of the underlying causes of polar climate change will help to better predict how this change influences variability and change locally and in other parts of the world.

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Stratospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate

Over the latter part of the twentieth century, CFC emissions from human activities caused a dramatic loss of stratospheric ozone, particularly over Antarctica. From a climate perspective, the effects of this ozone loss has not been confined to the stratosphere - ozone depletion has had significant impacts on the tropospheric and surface climate. I study the myriad ways that stratospheric ozone depletion influences climate.

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Stratosphere-troposphere Coupling

The stratosphere, once thought to be a passive layer above the troposphere, has a robust influence on the tropospheric circulation. This stratosphere-troposphere coupling is reflected in both the stratospheric influence on interannual tropospheric variability and also on long-term trends in the troposphere. My research investigates the drivers of stratosphere-troposphere coupling and the potential for such information to improve seasonal prediction.

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I am an assistant professor, teaching-stream in the University of Toronto Scarborough Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. These are the courses I am currently teaching.

Climate Change Science and Modelling (EES1133)

This course introduces the fundamental physics, chemistry and biology of Earth's climate system and familiarizes students with international global climate modelling initiatives.

Climate Data Analysis (EES1132)

This course offers an advanced introduction to climate data analysis. Students will gain an understanding of the theory and methods underlying the statistical analysis of climate data, in the space, time and spectral domains.

Climate Change Impact Assessment (EES1117)

This course describes how climate information can and is being used to assess the regional impacts of climate change and inform decision-making and adaptation strategies.

Advanced Seminar in Environmental Science (EES1100)

This course is designed to introduce students to the key topics of relevance to research in their chosen fields of study in environmental science.


Peer-reviewed publications

In Progress / Submitted

    In Press / Published

    1. Schneider, T., K. L. Smith, P. A. O’Gorman, and C. C. Walker, 2006: A climatology of tropospheric zonal-mean water vapor fields and fluxes in isentropic coordinates. Journal of Climate, 19, 5918–5933, PDFonline
    2. Smith, K. L., C. G. Fletcher, and P. J. Kushner, 2010: The Role of Linear Interference in the Annular Mode Response to Extratropical Surface Forcing. Journal of Climate, 23, 6036–6050, PDFonline
    3. Smith, K. L., P. J. Kushner, and J. Cohen, 2011: The Role of Linear Interference in Northern Annular Mode Variability Associated with Eurasian Snow Cover Extent. Journal of Climate, 24, 6185–6202, PDFonline
    4. Smith, K. L., and P. J. Kushner, 2012: Linear interference and the initiation of extratropical stratosphere-troposphere interactions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 117, 1–16, PDFonline
    5. Smith, K. L., L. M. Polvani, and D. R. Marsh, 2012: Mitigation of 21st century Antarctic sea ice loss by stratospheric ozone recovery. Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L20701, PDFonline
    6. Smith, K. L., M. Previdi, and L. M. Polvani, 2013: The Antarctic Atmospheric Energy Budget . Part II : The Effect of Ozone Depletion and its Projected Recovery. Journal of Climate, 26, 9729–9744, PDFonline
    7. Polvani, L. M., and K. L. Smith, 2013: Can natural variability explain observed Antarctic sea ice trends? New modeling evidence from CMIP5. Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 3195–3199, PDFonline
    8. Previdi, M., K. L. Smith, and L. M. Polvani, 2013: The Antarctic Atmospheric Energy Budget . Part I : Climatology and Intraseasonal-to-Interannual Variability. Journal of Climate, 26, 6406–6418, PDFonline
    9. Neely, R. R., D. R. Marsh, K. L. Smith, S. M. Davis, and L. M. Polvani, 2014: Biases in southern hemisphere climate trends induced by coarsely specifying the temporal resolution of stratospheric ozone. Geophyiscal Research Letters, 41, 1–9, PDFonline
    10. Smith, K. L., R. R. Neely, D. R. March, and L. M. Polvani, 2014: The Specified Chemistry Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (SC-WACCM). Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 6, 1–19, PDFonline
    11. Smith, K. L., and L. M. Polvani, 2014: The surface impacts of Arctic stratospheric ozone anomalies. Environmental Research Letters, 9, PDFonline
    12. Solomon, A., L. M. Polvani, K. L. Smith, and R. P. Abernathey, 2015: The impact of ozone depleting substances on the circulation , temperature , and salinity of the Southern Ocean : An attribution study with CESM1 ( WACCM ). Geophyiscal Research Letters, 42, 5547–5555, PDFonline
    13. Previdi, M., K. L. Smith, and L. M. Polvani, 2015: How well do the CMIP5 models simulate the antarctic atmospheric energy budget? Journal of Climate, 28, 7933–7942, PDFonline
    14. England, M. R., L. M. Polvani, K. L. Smith, L. Landrum, and M. M. Holland, 2016: Robust response of the Amundsen Sea Low to stratospheric ozone depletion. Geophyiscal Research Letters, 43, PDFonline
    15. Smith, K. L., and R. K. Scott, 2016: The role of planetary waves in the tropospheric jet response to stratospheric cooling. Geophysical Research Letters, 43, PDFonline
    16. Wu, Y., and K. L. Smith, 2016: Response of Northern Hemisphere midlatitude circulation to arctic amplification in a simple atmospheric general circulation model. Journal of Climate, 29, 2041–2058, PDFonline
    17. Zhang, P., Y. Wu, and K. L. Smith, 2017: Prolonged effect of the stratospheric pathway in linking Barents – Kara Sea sea ice variability to the midlatitude circulation in a simplified model. Climate Dynamics, PDFonline
    18. Smith, K. L., and L. M. Polvani, 2017: Spatial patterns of recent Antarctic surface temperature trends and the importance of natural variability : lessons from multiple reconstructions and the CMIP5 models. Climate Dynamics, PDFonline
    19. Zhang, P., Y. Wu, I. R. Simpson, K. L. Smith, X. Zhang, B. De, and P. Callaghan, 2018: A stratospheric pathway linking a colder Siberia to Barents-Kara Sea sea ice loss. Science Advances, 4, 1–9, PDFonline
    20. Smith, K. L., L. B. Tremblay, and L. M. Polvani, 2018: The Impact of Stratospheric Circulation Extremes on Minimum Arctic Sea Ice Extent. Journal of Climate, 31, 7169–7183, PDFonline
    21. Smith, K. L., G. Chiodo, M. Previdi, and L. M. Polvani, 2018: No Surface Cooling over Antarctica from the Negative Greenhouse Effect Associated with Instantaneous Quadrupling of CO2 Concentrations. Journal of Climate, 31, 317–323, PDFonline
    22. Virgin, J., and K. L. Smith, 2019: Is Arctic Amplification dominated by regional radiative forcing and feedbacks: Perspectives from the World-Avoided scenario. Geophysical Research Letters, 46, 7708–7717, PDFonline
    23. Polvani, L., M. Previdi, M. R. England, G. Chiodo, and K. L. Smith, 2020: Substantial twentieth-century Arctic warming caused by ozone-depleting substances. Nature Climate Change, PDFonline
    24. Maleska, S., K. L. Smith, and J. Virgin, 2020: Impacts of stratospheric ozone extremes on Arctic high cloud. Journal of Climate, PDFonline
    25. Previdi, M., T. P. Janoski, G. Chiodo, K. L. Smith, and L. M. Polvani, 2020: Arctic amplification: a rapid response to radiative forcing. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, PDFonline
    26. Previdi, M., K. L. Smith, and L. M. Polvani, 2021: Arctic amplification of climate change: a review of underlying mechanisms. Environmental Research Letters, 16, 093003, PDFonline
    27. Smith, K. L., and L. M. Polvani, 2021: Modeling evidence for large, ENSO-driven interannual wintertime AMOC variability. Environmental Research Letters, 16, 084038, PDFonline
    28. Anderson, C., and K. L. Smith, 2021: A narrative approach to building computational capacity for climate change impact assessment in professional master’s students. Journal of Open Source Education, PDFonline
    29. Liang, Y.-C., L. M. Polvani, M. Previdi, K. L. Smith, M. R. England, and G. Chiodo, 2022: Stronger Arctic amplification from ozone-depleting substances than from carbon dioxide. Environmental Research Letters, 17, 024010, PDFonline
    30. Janoski, T. P., M. Previdi, G. Chiodo, K. L. Smith, and L. M. Polvani, 2023: Ultrafast Arctic amplification and its governing mechanisms. Environmental Research: Climate, PDFonline
    31. Liang, Y.-C., and others, 2024: The weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex and the subsequent surface impacts as consequences to Arctic sea-ice loss. Journal of Climate, 37, 309–333, PDFonline
    32. Bu, S., K. L. Smith, F. Masoud, and A. Sheinbaum, 2024: Spatial distribution of heat vulnerability in Toronto, Canada. Urban Climate, PDF (in press)


    These are the people who make it happen.

    Lorenzo Polvani
    Michael Previdi
    Paul Kushner
      University of Toronto
    Yutian Wu
    Bruno Tremblay
      McGill University
    Climate Science for Engineering
      University of Toronto