I am a research hydrologist and climatologist, retired from the U.S. Geological Survey, and now a Visiting Researcher for Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Visiting Research Professor at the Desert Research Institute. I research the hydrology, climate, and water resources of the West, focusing on regional surface water and groundwater resources, hydroclimatic variability, and climate-change impacts. For contracting purposes, I have recently established a one-person LLC, called Michael Dettinger Climate Science, LLC.

Over the years, I've been: 

  • physical-sciences team leader for DOI-DOD ecosystem planning in the Mojave Desert (way back in the 1990s),

  • a member of executive committee for initial USA National Phenological Network implementation,

  • a founding organizer of the CIRMONT Western Mountain Climate Sciences Consortium,

  • co-editor of the 2008 and 2016 State of Bay-Delta Science reports,

  • research advisor for USGS Surface-Water Discipline,

  • a lead author of the Water Resources chapter of the 2013 National Climate Assessment,

  • convening lead author of California 4th Climate Assessment Sierra Nevada Region Report,

  • Chair of AMS Water Resources Committee 2015-2019,

  • a member of the Standing Review Board for NASA's Surface-Water/Oceanographic Topography (SWOT) mission.


I've authored and co-authored 150+ scientific articles and chapters in scholarly journals and books, 30+ government reports, and 90+ other reports in less formal outlets. My work has been cited in the scientific literature more than 30,000 times (>13,000 since 2016).

Photo: Lamoille Cyn, Ruby Mtns, Nevada



"for physical-science leadership [as phys-sci team leader] in multiagency DOD/DOI Mojave ecosystem planning," 1996


California Department of Water Resources

for "helping DWR to incorporate climate-change adaptation into water planning and management"

2007, 2014

Hydrology FELLOW,

American Geophysical Union

"for insightful, societally relevant research in understanding how climate and weather affect the variability of hydrologic systems," 2014

Atmospheric & Hydrospheric FELLOW, American Association for the Advancement of Science

"for seminal contributions to the understanding of the hydroclimatology of the Western US,” 2018

SENIOR SCIENTIST, US Geological Survey


SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD, California Extreme Precipitation Symposium

for "scientific contributions [that] have informed public decisionmaking resulting in increased public safety from floods and droughts," 2020



University of California, San Diego

BA Physics, Summa cum Laude


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MS Civil Engineering (Water Resources)


University of California, Los Angeles

MS & PhD Atmospheric Sciences

AGU Tyndall Lecturer on History of Global Environmental Change, speaking about the history of water resources & climate change studies in the Western US, 2021

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