Seneviratne, Sonia, Prof. Dr.

Prof. Dr.  Sonia Seneviratne

Prof. Dr. Sonia Seneviratne

Institut für Atmosphäre und Klima 

CHN  N 11 

Universitätstrasse 16

8092 Zürich


  • phone +41 44 632 80 76 
  • phone (Sec.) +41 44 632 82 79 
  • mail
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Research interests

Research group webpage


  • Land-climate interactions, soil moisture dynamics, and climate-relevant vegetation processes
  • Climate change and extreme events, droughts, hot extremes
  • Climate feedbacks and memory effects
  • Interface between water, energy and biogeochemical cycles
  • Climate and land surface modelling, new approaches to model validation
  • Evaluation of land datasets, field measurements
  • Land water and energy budgets  

Awards and Distinctions

2014-2019 ERC Consolidator Grant (DROUGHT-HEAT project)

2015 Highly cited researcher (Thomson Reuters)

2014 Highly cited researcher (Thomson Reuters)

2013 James B. Macelwane Medal, American Geophysical Union

2013 Fellow, American Geophysical Union

2012 Editor's Citation for Excellence in Refereeing for Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union

2003-2004 NCCR Climate postdoctoral fellowship


Full list of publications

Selected recent publications

S.I. Seneviratne, M. Donat, A.J. Pitman, R. Knutti, and R.L. Wilby, 2016: Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets. Nature, 529, 477-483, doi:10.1038/nature16542. (link; ETH News; NZZ; Tagesanzeiger; Blick; Daily Mail; Japan Times)

Guillod, B.P., B. Orlowsky, D.G. Miralles, A.J. Teuling, and S.I. Seneviratne, 2015: Reconciling spatial and temporal soil moisture effects on afternoon rainfall. Nature Communications, 6, 6443. (link; ETH Life)

Gudmundsson, L. and S.I. Seneviratne, 2015: Towards observation-based gridded runoff estimates for Europe. Hydr. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 2859-2879, doi:10.5194/hess-19-2859-2015. (link; highlighted in HESS)

Greve, P., and S.I. Seneviratne, 2015: Assessment of future changes in water availability and aridity. Geophys. Res. Lett., 42(13), 5493-5499, doi:10.1002/2015GL064127. (link)

Seneviratne, S.I, M. Donat, B. Mueller, and L.V. Alexander, 2014: No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes. Nature Climate Change, 4, 161-163. (link; Reuters; The Economist; SRF2 Wissenschaftsmagazin; CBC; Climate Central)

Davin, E.L., S.I. Seneviratne, P. Ciais, A. Olioso, and T. Wang, 2014: Preferential cooling of hot extremes from cropland albedo management. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., 111(27), 9757-9761, doi:10.1073/pnas.1317323111 (link; ETH News; Spiegel; Nature News).

Greve, P., B. Orlowsky, B. Mueller, J. Sheffield, M. Reichstein, and S.I. Seneviratne, 2014: Global assessment of trends in wetting and drying over land. Nature Geoscience, 7, 716-721, doi: 10.1038/NGEO2247. (link; ETH News;; 20 Minuten; Washington Post (online); Nature Geoscience News and Views)

Seneviratne, S.I., M. Wilhelm, T. Stanelle, B.J.J.M. van den Hurk, S. Hagemann, A. Berg, F. Cheruy, M.E. Higgins, A. Meier, V. Brovkin, M. Claussen, A. Ducharne, J.-L. Dufresne, K.L. Findell, J. Ghattas, D.M. Lawrence, S. Malyshev, M. Rummukainen, and B. Smith, 2013: Impact of soil moisture-climate feedbacks on CMIP5 projections: First results from the GLACE-CMIP5 experiment. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40 (19), 5212-5217 (link).

Orlowsky, B., and S.I. Seneviratne, 2013: Elusive drought: Uncertainty in observed trends and short- and long-term CMIP5 projections. Hydr. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 1765-1781, doi:10.5194/hess-17-1765-2013. (link)

Mueller, B., M. Hirschi, C. Jimenez, P. Ciais, P. A. Dirmeyer, A. J. Dolman, J. B. Fisher, M. Jung, F. Ludwig, F. Maignan, D. Miralles, M.F. McCabe, M. Reichstein, J. Sheffield, K.C. Wang, E.F. Wood, Y. Zhang, and S.I. Seneviratne, 2013: Benchmark products for land evapotranspiration: LandFlux-EVAL multi-dataset synthesis. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 3707-3720, doi:10.5194/hess-17-3707-2013. (link)

Seneviratne, S.I., N. Nicholls, D. Easterling, C.M. Goodess, S. Kanae, J. Kossin, Y. Luo, J. Marengo, K. McInnes, M. Rahimi, M. Reichstein, A. Sorteberg, C. Vera, and X. Zhang, 2012: Changes in climate extremes and their impacts on the natural physical environment. In: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pp. 109-230. [Full IPCC SREX Report, Chapter 3; SREX web site]
->Some media reports and background information on the IPCC SREX report:
ETH Klimablog: Das IPCC SREX in Kürze, Qualitätskontrolle im IPCC SREX; ETH Life Interview: Deutsch, English; IPCC SREX Video; Media articles: SciDevNet, NZZ, Die Zeit, Environmental Health Perspectives

IPCC, 2012: Summary for Policymakers. In: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, pp. 1-19. (in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish)

Mueller, B., and S.I. Seneviratne, 2012: Hot days induced by precipitation deficits at the global scale. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., 109 (31), 12398-12403, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1204330109. (link; ETH Life article; TagesAnzeiger; Los Angeles Times; Research Highlight in Nature Geoscience)

Seneviratne, S.I., 2012: Historical drought trends revisited. Nature, 491, 338-339. (link)

Quesada, B., R. Vautard, P. Yiou, M. Hirschi, and S.I. Seneviratne, 2012: Asymmetric European summer heat predictability from wet and dry Southern winter/springs. Nature Climate Change, 2, 736-741, doi:10.1038/nclimate1536. (link; ScienceDaily)

Seneviratne, S.I., and R.D. Koster, 2012: A revised framework for analyzing soil moisture memory in climate data: Derivation and interpretation. J. Hydrometeorology, 13, 404-412, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-044.1. (link)

Mittelbach, H., and S.I. Seneviratne, 2012: A new perspective on the spatio-temporal variability of soil moisture: Temporal dynamics versus time invariant contributions. Hydr. Earth Syst. Sci, 16, 2169–2179, doi:10.5194/hess-16-2169-2012. (link)

Orlowsky, B., and S.I. Seneviratne, 2012: Global changes in extreme events: Regional and seasonal dimension. Climatic Change, 110, 669-696, doi: 10.1007/s10584-011-0122-9. (link)

Hirschi, M., S.I. Seneviratne, V. Alexandrov, F. Boberg, C. Boroneant, O.B. Christensen, H. Formayer, B. Orlowsky, and P. Stepanek, 2011: Observational evidence for soil-moisture impact on hot extremes in southeastern Europe. Nature Geoscience, 4, 17-21, doi:10.1038/ngeo1032. (link; News and Views; ETH Life article)

Seneviratne, S.I., T. Corti, E.L. Davin, M. Hirschi, E.B. Jaeger, I. Lehner, B. Orlowsky, and A.J. Teuling, 2010: Investigating soil moisture-climate interactions in a changing climate: A review. Earth-Science Reviews, 99, 3-4, 125-161, doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2010.02.004. (link)

Jung, M., M. Reichstein, P. Ciais, S.I. Seneviratne, J. Sheffield, M.L. Goulden, G. Bonan, A. Cescatti, J. Chen, R. de Jeu, A.J. Dolman, W. Eugster, D. Gerten, D. Gianelle, N. Gobron, J. Heinke, J. Kimball, B.E. Law, L. Montagnani, Q. Mu, B. Mueller, K. Oleson, D. Papale, A.D. Richardson, O. Roupsard, S. Running, E. Tomelleri, N. Viovy, U. Weber, C. Williams, E. Wood, S. Zaehle, K. Zhang, 2010: Recent decline in the global land evapotranspiration trend due to limited moisture supply. Nature, 467, 951-954. doi:10.1038/nature09396. (link)

Teuling, A.J., S.I. Seneviratne, R. Stöckli, M. Reichstein, E. Moors, P. Ciais, S. Luyssaert, B. van den Hurk, C. Ammann, C. Bernhofer, E. Dellwik, D. Gianelle, B. Gielen, T. Grünwald, K. Klumpp, L. Montagnani, C. Moureaux, M. Sottocornola, and G. Wohlfahrt, 2010: Contrasting response of European forest and grassland energy exchange to heatwaves. Nature Geoscience, 3, 722-727, doi:10.1038/ngeo950. (link; ETH life article)

Seneviratne, S.I., D. Lüthi, M. Litschi, and C. Schär, 2006: Land-atmosphere coupling and climate change in Europe. Nature, 443, 205-209. (link;; editor's summary)

Invited Presentations

List of invited and solicited presentations (selected)


Land-Climate Interactions (MSc)

Rietholzbach Field Course (MSc)

Messmethoden in der Meteorologie und Klimaforschung (BSc)

Research Projects

(see also our research pages)

ERC Consolidator Grant "DROUGHT-HEAT", 2014-2019

EU-FP7 EUCLEIA, 2014-2016

ESA Soil moisture CCI, 2012-2014 (Phase 1), 2015-2017 (Phase 2)

EU-FP7 EMBRACE, 2011-2015

EU-FP7 DROUGHT-R&SPI, 2011-2015

ETH CHIRP2, 2012-2015

SNF Sinergia Carbo-Count CH, 2012-2015

NRP61 DROUGHT-CH, 2010-2013

EU-FP7 CARBO-Extreme, 2009-2013

NCCR-Climate Phase III, 2009-2012

SwissSMEX (SNF), 2008-2011

MAIOLICA (CCES), 2008-2012

NCCR-Climate Phase II (SwissRe-funded project), 2007-2009

EU-FP6 CECILIA, 2006-2009

Scientific Service

Selected service contributions

Co-chair of WCRP GEWEX Scientific Steering Group (2014-present)

ECMWF Scientific Advisory Committee (2012-present)

Coordinating Lead Author, IPCC SREX report (2009-2012)

ILEAPS Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) (2008-2013)

WCRP GEWEX Data and Assessment Panel (GDAP) (2008-2013)

WCRP GEWEX GLASS Panel (2008-2013)

Curriculum Vitae

2013- Associate Professor, ETH Zurich
2007-2012 Assistant Professor, ETH Zurich
2005-2007 Senior research scientist, ETH Zurich
2003-2004 Visiting research associate, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt (MD), USA
1999-2002 PhD thesis, ETH Zurich (Award: 04/2003)
1998-1999 Visiting scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge (MA), USA
1995-1999 MSc in Environmental Sciences (Major: Atmospheric Physics), ETH Zurich, Switzerland
1992-1995 BSc in Biology ("Attestation de Pré-licence"), University of Lausanne, Switzerland

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