David Lea


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Office Location

Webb 1114


Paleoclimatology, Paleoceanography, Marine Geochemistry, Global Climate Change



David Lea received his B.S. in Geology, Magna Cum Laude, from Haverford College (PA) in 1984 and his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 1990 (Thesis Supervisor Prof. Ed Boyle, MIT - member NAS). 


David Lea is Professor in the Department of Earth Science, Affiliate Faculty in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and a member of the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been a faculty member since 1989. He received his B.S. in Geology from Haverford College (PA) in 1984 and his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 1990 (Thesis Supervisor Prof. Ed Boyle, MIT - member NAS). His research interests include Ice Age climate change, marine geochemistry/carbon cycle, and global climate change. He has published over 100 scholarly papers on these topics, including 18 in the high profile journals Science and Nature. Lea has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago and University of Cambridge, UK. His awards include the UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award (2001), a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2002-03), a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship, a Clare Hall Visiting Fellowship (both 2002-03, Cambridge, UK), the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Emiliani Lectureship (2007) -- awarded to "individuals who have made outstanding scientific contributions to our understanding of past oceans and climates" --, a Leopold Leadership Fellowship (2009), a Jefferson Science Fellowship (2010), and a Google Science Communication Fellowship (2011). Lea was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012, of the AGU in 2013, of Fondation IMéRA (Marseille, France) in 2015, and of the Breakthrough Institute (Oakland, CA) in 2016. In 2010-2011, as a Jefferson Science Fellow, Lea served as science advisor in the U.S. Department of State to the Honorable Todd Stern, President Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate Change (SECC) and chief U.S. negotiator of the Paris Agreement, and to the Office of Global Change (EGC). In Feb. 2018, UC President Janet Napolitano appointed Lea a member of the University of California Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC), which advises the UC system on its Carbon Neutrality Initiative. In Sep. 2018, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang appointed Lea faculty co-Chair of the Chancellor's Sustainability Committee.

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David Lea's research interests include the geological record of climate change and its causes, marine geochemistry and the carbon cycle, and present-day global climate change.


Current Projects

A. As part of an international working group called SENSETROP, we have compiled, harmonized and synthesized paleo-SST data from the tropics during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) -- see pub. #98 for the original idea. Our initial results were presented at the ICP12 in Utrecht, Netherlands, in late summer 2016, and at the AGU Fall Meeting 2016 in SF, CA.

B. I am working with my colleague Professor Syee Weldeab, post-doc Will Gray, and former UCSB masters student Minda Monteagudo on a collaborative NSF grant to study how salinity and other factors effect the efficacy of foraminiferal Mg/Ca as a paleotemperature proxy. See publication #104 for a global sediment trap compilation and new calibrations.

C. I have been working with several modeling groups (Pedro DiNezio, Hawaii; Charles Jackson, Texas; Tony Broccoli, Rutgers) to test paleoclimate data spanning the LGM and subsequent deglaciation against coupled model simulations (also linked to areas B-C), with the goal of improving climate sensitivity determinations. See publication #105 for results related to Antarctic climate records.

D. Former UCSB masters student Samantha Gwizd and I are investigating a series of cores taken on a cruise to the Galápagos area, KNR195-5. We are focusing our efforts on a site on the Carnegie Platform, with the major effort of developing the isotope and carbonate stratigraphy for giant piston core CDH36, which spans 720,000 years, three times longer than previous cores from this site. Records from this site are likely to be important for both surface water and deep-water evolution. A paper is in revision for Marine Micropaleontology.


Publication/Citation Summary: Google Scholar

Google Scholar contains links to all of my publications and, in most cases, the PDFs.

List of Publications since 2010, with linked pdfs


105. Michael P Erb, Charles S Jackson, Anthony J Broccoli, David W Lea, Paul J Valdes, Michel Crucifix, Pedro N DiNezio: Model evidence for a seasonal bias in Antarctic ice cores. Nature communications 9 (1), 1361

104. WR Gray, S Weldeab, DW Lea, Y Rosenthal, N Gruber, B Donner, Gerhard Fischer:  The effects of temperature, salinity, and the carbonate system on Mg/Ca in Globigerinoides ruber (white): A global sediment trap calibration. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 482, 607-620


103. DK Naik, R Saraswat, DW Lea, SR Kurtarkar, A Mackensen: Last glacial-interglacial productivity and associated changes in the eastern Arabian Sea, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 2017


102. JD Shakun, ME Raymo, DW Lea, An early Pleistocene Mg/Ca??18O record from the Gulf of Mexico: Evaluating ice sheet size and pacing in the 41?kyr world, Paleoceanography 31 (7), 1011-1027, 2016


101. Shakun, J. D., Lea, D. W., Lisiecki, L. E., Raymo, M. E., An 800-kyr record of global surface ocean ?18O and implications for ice volume-temperature coupling, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 426, 56-68, 2015.

100. Lea, D.W., Climate sensitivity in a warmer world, Nature 518, 46-47, 2015


99.    Weldeab, S., Lea, D. W., Oberhänsli, H. and Schneider, R. R., Links between southwestern tropical Indian Ocean SST and precipitation over Southeastern Africa over the last 17 kyr, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 410, 200-212, DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.06.001, 2014.

98.    Lea, D. W., Kienast, M., de Garidel-Thoron, T., Kageyama, M., Paul, A. and Bard, E., COMPARE 2013, Constraining tropical ocean cooling during the Last Glacial Maximum. Past Global Changes Magazine 22(1), 43, 2014.

97.    Lea, D. W., Not so permanent El Niño, Science 344, 52-53, 10.1126/science.1252246, 2014.

96.    Regenberg, M., Regenberg, A., Garbe?Schönberg, A. and Lea, D. W. (2014) Global dissolution effects on planktonic foraminiferal Mg/Ca ratios controlled by the calcite?saturation state of bottom waters. Paleoceanography 29, 127–142, doi:10.1002/2013PA002492, 2014.


95.    Lea D. W., Elemental and Isotopic Proxies of Past Ocean Temperatures, In Treatise on Geochemistry, Second Edition (eds. Holland H. D. and Turekian, K. K.), Vol. 8, Oxford: Elsevier, 2014.

94.     Hönisch, B., Allen, K. A., Lea, D. W., Spero, H. J., Eggins, S. M., Arbuszewski, J., deMenocal, P., Rosenthal, Y., Russell, A. D. and Elderfield, H., The influence of salinity on Mg/Ca in planktic foraminifers - evidence from cultures, core-top sediments and complementary ?18O, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 121, 196-213, 2013.

93.    Saraswat, R., Lea, D. W., Nigam, R., Mackensen, A., Naik, D. K., Deglaciation in the tropical Indian Ocean driven by interplay between the regional monsoon and global teleconnections, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 375, 166-175, 2013.


92.    PALAEOSENS (multiple authors), Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity, Nature 491, 683-691, 2012.

91.    Pak, D. K, Lea, D. W. and Kennett, J. P. Millennial scale changes in sea surface temperature and ocean circulation in the northeast Pacific, 10-60 kyr BP, Paleoceanography, 27, PA1212, doi:10.1029/2011PA002238, 2012.


90.    Hönisch, B., Allen, K. A., Russell, A. D., Eggins, S. M., Bijma, J., Spero, H. J. Lea, D. W. and Yu, J., Planktic foraminifers as recorders of seawater Ba/Ca, Marine Micropaleontology, 79, 52-57, 2011.

89.    Lalicata, J. J. and Lea, D. W., Pleistocene carbonate dissolution fluctuations in the eastern equatorial Pacific on glacial timescales: Evidence from ODP Hole 1241, Marine Micropaleontology, 79, 41-51, 2011.


88.    Medina-Elizalde, M., Burns, S. J., Lea, D. W., Asmerom, Y., von Guntena, L., Polyak, V., Vuille, M. and Karmalkar, A., High resolution stalagmite climate record from the Yucatán Peninsula spanning the Maya terminal classic period, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 298, 255-262, 2010.

87.    Toggweiler, J.R., Lea, D.W., 2010. Temperature differences between the hemispheres and ice age climate variability. Paleoceanography, 25, PA2212, 2210.1029/2009pa001758, 2010.

86.    Medina-Elizalde, M., Lea, D.W., 2010. Late Pliocene equatorial Pacific. Paleoceanography, 25, PA2208, 2210.1029/2009pa001780, 2010.


Earth 4: Oceanography (Fall 2011, Fall 2013)

Earth 105: Earth's Climate Past and Present (Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Winter 2017, Winter 2018, Winter 2019)

Earth 130: Global Warming Science and Society (Winter 2013, Spring 2014, Winter 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018)

Earth 266: Chemical Oceanography (Winter 2014, Spring 2018)

ESM 239 (Bren School): Advanced Climate Science for Policy Makers (Spring, 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019)

This course examines the science of climate change with a focus on those issues most relevant to policy makers. Professor Lea will draw on his experience serving as science advisor to the Special Envoy on Climate Change in the U.S. Department of State. Topics include: Climate Forcing Agents and their Efficacy; Climate Sensitivity and Feedbacks; Anthropogenic Climate Change; Extreme Events; Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Global Temperature Limits and Mitigation Scenarios; and Geoengineering. Discussion will focus on topical issues at the nexus of climate policy and science, such as mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon.