Randerson studies the global carbon cycle using remote sensing and in-situ measurements and different types of models. Current research themes in his laboratory include climate-carbon cycle feedbacks, land use change, and the effects of fire on ecosystem function and atmospheric composition. He has conducted field work in Alaska and Siberia to assess the long-term impacts of fire on surface energy exchange and fluxes of carbon dioxide. In 2005 Randerson was the recipient of the James B. Macelwane Medal awarded by the American Geophysical Union for "significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist." He received a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences (1998) and a B.S. in Chemistry (1992) from Stanford University. He conducted work as a postdoctoral scholar at University of California, Berkeley and University of Alaska. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Climate-Carbon Cycle Feedbacks
Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award (professional)
2017 American Geophysical Union
NASA Group Achievement Award (professional)
Stanford University: PhD, Biological Sciences 1998
Stanford University: BS, Chemistry 1992
- American Geophysical Union : Fellow
- Ecological Society of America
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- National Academy of Sciences of the United States
Media Appearances (10)
A Looming El Niño Could Dry the Amazon
“In general, the rain falls more on the ocean,” says Earth systems scientist [and Chancellor’s Professor] James Randerson, of the University of California, Irvine. “It just doesn’t rain as much on global land. The continents lose water, especially South America.” … But for 2023, it’s too early to say how any of this will play out—Randerson says that scientists should have a better idea this spring. “The fact that we’re in this sustained La Niña for so long,” says Randerson, “I think it’s more likely that you’re going to shift to a stronger El Niño state.”
The last thread of hope to revive California’s trees is vanishing
Popular Science online
Due to human-caused climate change, California’s forest mosaics are vanishing. According to a study published in AGU Advances last July, the state’s forests lost almost 7 percent, or just over 1,700 square miles, of tree cover since 1985. … The dramatic loss of many of California’s giant sequoias, ancient trees that lived with fire for thousands of years, particularly troubles [Jon] Wang’s co-author James T. Randerson, an Earth systems scientist [and Chancellor’s Professor] at the University of California, Irvine. “You can extrapolate out what’s going to happen to the forest,” Randerson said. “It’s horrific.”
Torrential rains wreaking havoc on California communities proving beneficial for state's forests
ABC News online
The same atmospheric river storm system that is bringing devastating flooding to communities all over California is providing relief to the state's forests, according to experts. ... The plethora of extra moisture is likely to stave off a mass die-off of trees in the West, Jim Randerson, a Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science at the University of California Irvine, told ABC News.
How to Save a Forest by Burning It
The New York Times
Scientists have been “just completely caught off guard about how fast things are changing,” said James T. Randerson, an earth scientist at the University of California, Irvine.
Seeing Hurricanes – Even Just Through the Media – Can Impact Your Mental Health
A groundbreaking study conducted by experts at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) found a correlation between repeated exposure to hurricanes—whether direct, indirect, or media-based—and adverse psychological symptoms that may be linked to increased mental health issues.
California is losing its trees — perhaps permanently — as climate change is shifting its ecosystems
ZME Science online
“The forests are not keeping up with these large fires,” said study co-author James Randerson, the Ralph J. and Carol M. Cicerone Professor of Earth system science at UCI. “These are big changes in less than four decades.”
Deforestation causes biomass loss beyond directly affected areas
“This paper shows that avoiding deforestation yields carbon benefits in nearby regions as a consequence of climate feedbacks,” explained Jim Randerson, UCI professor of Earth System Science.
The pandemic slashed the West Coast’s emissions. Wildfires already reversed it.
MIT Technology Review online
Climate change is making wildfires worse in most forested areas of the globe, says James Randerson, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and a coauthor of the AGU paper.
Desert plant life disappearing due to climate change, UC Irvine study says
The Orange County Register online
“These (plants) have been able to eek out an existence on the edge of what they can physiologically tolerate. But any additional stress, such as climate change, can exceed their limits,” said James Randerson, an earth science professor and one of five UCI authors of the report. “Our study clearly shows that there’s a toll of climate change.”
California is primed for a severe fire season, but just how bad is anybody's guess
Los Angeles Times online
Counterintuitively, an extremely dry year can actually mean Southern California will see fewer fires, as flames often spread from a human source into nearby shrublands or forests, said James Randerson, professor of earth system science at UC Irvine.
Machine learning to predict final fire size at the time of ignitionInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Shane R Coffield, Casey A Graff, Yang Chen, Padhraic Smyth, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, James T Randerson
2019 Fires in boreal forests of Alaska are changing, threatening human health and ecosystems. Given expected increases in fire activity with climate warming, insight into the controls on fire size from the time of ignition is necessary. Such insight may be increasingly useful for fire management, especially in cases where many ignitions occur in a short time period. Here we investigated the controls and predictability of final fire size at the time of ignition. Using decision trees, we show that ignitions can be classified as leading to small, medium or large fires with 50.4 ± 5.2% accuracy.
The effect of plant physiological responses to rising CO2 on global streamflowNature Climate Change
Megan D. Fowler, Gabriel J. Kooperman, James T. Randerson & Michael S. Pritchard
2019 River flow statistics are expected to change as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2 but uncertainty in Earth system model projections is high. While this is partly driven by changing precipitation, with well-known Earth system model uncertainties, here we show that the influence of plant stomatal conductance feedbacks can cause equally large changes in regional flood extremes and even act as the main control on future low latitude streamflow.
The Community Land Model Version 5: Description of New Features, Benchmarking, and Impact of Forcing UncertaintyJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
David M Lawrence, Rosie A Fisher, Charles D Koven, Keith W Oleson, Sean C Swenson, Gordon Bonan, Nathan Collier, Bardan Ghimire, Leo van Kampenhout, Daniel Kennedy, Erik Kluzek, Peter J Lawrence, Fang Li, Hongyi Li, Danica Lombardozzi, William J Riley, William J Sacks, Mingjie Shi, Mariana Vertenstein, William R Wieder, Chonggang Xu, Ashehad A Ali, Andrew M Badger, Gautam Bisht, Michiel van den Broeke, Michael A Brunke, Sean P Burns, Jonathan Buzan, Martyn Clark, Anthony Craig, Kyla Dahlin, Beth Drewniak, Joshua B Fisher, Mark Flanner, Andrew M Fox, Pierre Gentine, Forrest Hoffman, Gretchen Keppel‐Aleks, Ryan Knox, Sanjiv Kumar, Jan Lenaerts, L Ruby Leung, William H Lipscomb, Yaqiong Lu, Ashutosh Pandey, Jon D Pelletier, Justin Perket, James T Randerson, Daniel M Ricciuto, Benjamin M Sanderson, Andrew Slater, Zachary M Subin, Jinyun Tang, R Quinn Thomas, Maria Val Martin, Xubin Zeng
2019 The Community Land Model (CLM) is the land component of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and is used in several global and regional modeling systems. In this paper, we introduce model developments included in CLM version 5 (CLM5), which is the default land component for CESM2.
Expansion of Coccidioidomycosis Endemic Regions in the United States in Response to Climate ChangeGeoHealth
Morgan E. Gorris, Kathleen K. Treseder, Charles S. Zender, James T. Randerson
2019 Coccidioidomycosis (Valley fever) is a fungal disease endemic to the southwestern United States. Across this region, temperature and precipitation influence the extent of the endemic region and number of Valley fever cases. Climate projections for the western United States indicate that temperatures will increase and precipitation patterns will shift, which may alter disease dynamics.
Expansion of high-latitude deciduous forests driven by interactions between climate warming and fireNature Plants volume
Zelalem A. Mekonnen, William J. Riley, James T. Randerson, Robert F. Grant & Brendan M. Rogers
2019 High-latitude regions have experienced rapid warming in recent decades, and this trend is projected to continue over the twenty-first century1. Fire is also projected to increase with warming2,3. We show here, consistent with changes during the Holocene4, that changes in twenty-first century climate and fire are likely to alter the composition of Alaskan boreal forests. We hypothesize that competition for nutrients after fire in early succession and for light in late succession in a warmer climate will cause shifts in plant functional type.