Climate Dynamicist
Assistant Scientist, Geology and Geophysics
Woods Hole Oceanographic Insitution



I am an Assistant Scientist in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. My work combines state-of-the-art statistical techniques and General Circulation Models (GCMs) with observed and paleoclimatic data to better understand climate dynamics on decadal-to-centennial timescales. My current research interests include the dynamics and characteristics of centennial timescale variability in the tropical Pacific, the dynamics and characteristics of decadal timescale drought, the physical processes underlying the simulation of drought by GCMs, and developing and employing spatiotemporal data analysis techniques. If you are interested in working in my lab as an undergraduate researcher, graduate student or postdoctoral researcher please reach out to discuss opportunities. I was previously at Columbia University for my doctorate and a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder and in the Advanced Study Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.


PhD, Earth Science, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, 2015*
BA and BS, high honors, Geography and Environmental Economics and Policy, UC Berkeley, 2009


*Awarded Science for Society Prize of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Columbia University
2013 AGU Fall Meeting Outstanding Student Presentatikon
Phi Beta Kappa, UC Berkeley, 2009

Download my full CV


Coats, S. and K.B. Karnauskas, A role for the Equatorial Undercurrent in the ocean dynamical thermostat, Journal of Climate, in press.

Stevenson, S., J.T. Overpeck, J. Fasullo, S. Coats, L. Parsons, B. Otto-Bliesner, T. Ault, G. Loope and J. Cole, Climate Variability, Volcanic Forcing, and Last Millennium Hydroclimate Extremes, Journal of Climate, 2018.

Ault, T.R., S. St. George, J.E. Smerdon, S. Coats, J.S. Mankin, C.M. Carrillo, B.I. Cook and S. Stevenson, A robust null hypothesis for the potential causes of megadrought in western North America, Journal of Climate, 2018.

Coats, S. and K.B. Karnauskas, Are Simulated and Observed Twentieth Century Tropical Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Trends Significant Relative to Internal Variability?, Geophysical Research Letters, 2017.

Baek, S.H., J.E. Smerdon, S. Coats, A.P. Williams, B.I. Cook, E.R. Cook and R. Seager, Precipitation, temperature, and teleconnection signals across the combined North American, Monsoon Asia, and Old World Drought Atlases, Journal of Climate, 2017.

Lehner, F., S. Coats, T.F. Stocker, A.G. Pendergrass, B.M Sanderson, C.C. Raible and J.E. Smerdon, Projected drought risk in 1.5 C and 2 C warmer climates, Geophysical Research Letters, 2017.

Smerdon, J.E., J. Luterbacher, S.J. Phipps, K.J. Anchukaitis, T. Ault, S. Coats, et al., Comparing proxy and model estimates of hydroclimate variability and change over the Common Era, Climate of the Past, 2017.

Coats, S., J.E. Smerdon, B.I. Cook, R. Seager, E.R. Cook and K.J. Anchukaitis, Internal ocean-atmosphere variability drives megadroughts in Western North America, Geophysical Research Letters, 2016.

Coats, S. and J.S. Mankin, The challenge of accurately quantifying future megadrought risk in the American Southwest, Geophysical Research Letters, 2016.

Coats, S., J.E. Smerdon, K.B. Karnauskas and R. Seager, The improbable but unexceptional occurrence of megadrought clustering in the American West during the Medieval Climate Anomaly, Environmental Research Letters, 2016.

Cook, B.I., E.R. Cook, J.E. Smerdon, R. Seager, A.P. Williams, S. Coats, D.W. Stahle and J. Villanueva, North American Megadroughts in the Common Era: Reconstructions and Simulations, WIREs Climate Change, 2016.

Coats, S., J.E. Smerdon, R. Seager, D. Griffin and B.I. Cook, Winter-to-Summer Precipitation Phasing in Southwestern North America: A Multi-Century Perspective from Paleoclimate Model-Data Comparisons, Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, 2015.

J.E. Smerdon, S. Coats and T.R. Ault, Model-Dependent Spatial Skill in Pseudoproxy Experiments Testing Climate Field Reconstruction Methods for the Common Era, Climate Dynamics, 2015.

Coats, S., B.I. Cook, J.E. Smerdon and R. Seager, North American Pan-Continental Droughts in Model Simulations of the Last Millennium, Journal of Climate, 2015.

Coats, S., J.E. Smerdon, B.I. Cook and R. Seager, Are Simulated Megadroughts in the North American Southwest Forced?, Journal of Climate, 2015.

Cook, B.I., J.E. Smerdon, R. Seager and S. Coats, Global Warming and 21st Century Drought, Climate Dynamics, 2014.

Coats, S., J.E. Smerdon, B.I. Cook and R. Seager, Stationarity of the Tropical Pacific Teleconnection to North America in the CMIP5/PMIP3 Model Simulations, Geophysical Research Letters, 2013.

Coats, S., J.E. Smerdon, R. Seager, B.I. Cook and J.F. González-Rouco, Megadroughts in Southwestern North America in Millennium-Length ECHO-G Simulations and their Comparison to Proxy Drought Reconstructions, Journal of Climate, 2013.


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Geology and Geophysics
266 Woods Hole Road (MS #23), Woods Hole, MA 02540
Phone: 508-289-3509; Office: Clark 123A