Stephen E. Zebiak is the director-general of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), which seeks to enhance society's capability to understand, anticipate and manage the impacts of climate in order to improve human welfare and the environment, especially in developing countries. As director, he leads an inter-disciplinary team of more than 40 scientists specializing in climate prediction, agriculture, health, water, economics and development policy.
"Decision makers need reliable, science-based information to know how, where and when to prepare for climate risks. In developing such information, the IRI aims to make sure its work is guided by real needs and is actually useable by those who need it," he says.
Zebiak is also a senior research scientist at Columbia's Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory and a member of the Earth Institute faculty. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society.
Additionally, Zebiak has served on many national, international and advisory committees, including the International CLIVAR working group for seasonal-to-interannual prediction (chair); the NRC/NAS Panel on Improving the Effectiveness of US Climate Modeling; and the International Organizing Committee of the World Climate Conference-3.
Zebiak has worked in the area of ocean-atmosphere interaction and climate variability since completing his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984. He and Mark Cane authored the first dynamical model used to predict El Niño successfully. He has authored numerous publications on climate modeling and prediction, and he has represented IRI across the world, while consulting with such partners as the United Nations Development Programme, the World Food Programme, the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, SwissRe, and various development banks, foundations and meteorological services.