Prof. Sumant Nigam


Prof. Sumant Nigam is a Professor and Chair of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland, with a joint appointment in the university's Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center. He earned his M.Sc degree in Physics from IIT Kanpur in 1978, supported by the National Science Talent Scholarship.


Prof. Nigam came to the University of Maryland in 1987, where he is currently a Professor of atmospheric and oceanic science, and earth system science. From 2000-2002, he was the Director of the large-scale dynamic meteorology program of the US National Science Foundation. He obtained his Ph.D. in geophysical fluid dynamics from Princeton University in 1984 and from 1984 to 1987, he did postdoctoral work with Richard Lindzen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA.

His interests lie in extra tropical climate dynamics and ocean-atmosphere interaction. Prof. Nigam proposed (with Lindzen) a new mechanism for tropical air-sea interaction that explains the evolution of surface winds over the tropical oceans, challenging a venerable model of the circulation over eastern basins. More recently, he has been involved in the analysis of decadal climate variability and its role in generating multi-decadal trends in Arctic sea ice, Asian monsoon rainfall, North American droughts, and Atlantic hurricanes. Prof. Nigam is seeks to unravel the natural variability and secular change components of the climate record, facilitating attribution of the recent warming of the northern continents and the drying of the Gangetic plain. He also investigates the extent of human influence on the South Asian summer monsoon from increasing anthropogenic aerosols and land-surface degradation and desertification. Prof. Nigam has helped shape the US climate science program by serving on the climate research committee and the board of atmospheric sciences and climate, both of the US national academies from 2008-2012. He previously served as co-chair of the climate variability working group of NCAR's community climate system model; co-chair of the US climate variability and predictability panel on Phenomena, observations and synthesis; and as editor of the journal of climate, the premier science journal of the American Meteorological Society. He is currently a member of the international commission on dynamic meteorology. Prof. Nigam served on the IITK Director's panel on innovation in research cooperation during IITK's Golden Jubilee celebrations in Washington DC in July 2010. He has supervised a dozen doctoral theses, with former students conducting research at leading universities, including Princeton, UC-Berkeley, and JPL/Cal tech. Prof Nigam is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the Royal Meteorological Society. He was featured on the cover of science in May 2004 in connection with a report on foreign-born US scientists, titled "brains and borders: many origins, one destination".

The Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur is conferred on Professor Sumant Nigam for outstanding contributions in the area of atmospheric and ocean sciences.

Achievements and Honors

  • Recipient of Distinguished Alumnus Award, 2013 by IIT Kanpur.