Jonathan Overpeck '79

Jonathan Overpeck ’79, one of the nation’s leading experts on climate change, has been appointed the inaugural dean of the University of Michigan (U-M) School for Environment and Sustainability. The position carries the title, Samuel A. Graham Dean, and is effective Aug. 14.

Overpeck is currently director of the Institute of the Environment, as well the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Science and a Regents' Professor of Geosciences, Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona.

He has published more than 200 works in climate and the environmental sciences and was one of 33 lead authors on the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

Overpeck earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in geology from Hamilton and earned the M.Sc. and the Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Brown University in 1981 and 1985, respectively.

U-M President Mark Schlissel said the hiring of Overpeck would give the School for Environment and Sustainability a great start on its mission to further advance the university’s global leadership in sustainability and environmental research and education.

In a press release issued by U-M, Schlissel said, “I am proud that the University of Michigan is taking action to address the real-world challenges of climate change and sustainability. I believe that addressing the threat of climate change is one of the great generational challenges of our current and future students.”

“The University of Michigan’s vision for the new interdisciplinary, cross-campus school focused on environment and sustainability is bold and exciting,” Overpeck said. “Not only will it tap into an amazing faculty and student body to expand U-M’s research and education capacity, it should also really move the needle in terms of making a difference in society, from communities in Michigan and the nation, to those around the planet.”

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the American Geophysical Union, Overpeck was the founding director of the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program.

 He has active research programs on five continents (North America, South America, Australia, Africa, and monsoon Asia), most commonly focusing on providing paleoenvironmental insights into how key aspects of Earth’s climate system may change in the future. 

Overpeck is a co-principal investigator of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest Project and has been the lead university investigator of the U. S. Department of the Interior’s Southwest Climate Science Center.

He was recently supported by the U.S. Department of Defense to work with its decision-makers on issues related to climate variability and change, and is the lead principal investigator of a large collaborative National Science Foundation project focused on global drought, how well drought can be simulated with earth system models and how information about drought can be optimized for use in society.  


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