Peter Hitchcock

Peter Hitchcock

Assistant Professor--Appointment is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)


Peter Hitchcock joined the faculty in 2018. Born and raised in Hamilton, Canada, Hitchcock received a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 2012 where he worked with Ted Shepherd. He spent four years as a postdoc with Peter Haynes at the University of Cambridge, another year as a postdoc with Bill Randel at NCAR and Thomas Birner at CSU, and one year at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France prior to starting his current position.

Research Interests

Hitchcock studies the structure and variability of Earth’s global circulation through the lens of the stratosphere. The global circulation transports energy, water vapor, and other radiatively active species, shaping Earth’s climate and its response to human activities in the coming century. Fluctuations in the global circulation drive the climate variability and weather extremes during which the sting of climate change will be felt most keenly by human society.

The stratosphere sits above most weather systems that directly affect humankind. It consists of less than a fifth of the mass of the atmosphere, but its dynamical, radiative, and chemical character are highly distinct from the troposphere below: it responds to natural and anthropogenic perturbations in entirely different ways, and

its internal variability is in many ways more predictable than that of the lower atmosphere. In recent decades it has become increasingly clear that the stratosphere impacts surface weather and climate in a variety of ways.

Hitchcock studies these influences using dynamical models with a broad range of complexity, ranging from comprehensive climate models and operational numerical weather forecasting models, through to low-order, highly simplified models that can be treated analytically. He also makes use of a range of observational datasets. Above all he seeks process-based understanding that is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence.

Teaching Interests

Hitchcock teaches EAS 3420/5420 Atmospheric Dynamics, and EAS 6520 Advanced Atmospheric Dynamics. With Mark Wysocki, he also developed a Jupyter Notebook-based discussion class that has now become the core of the Synoptic Meteorology course taught by Angie Pendergrass.

Selected Publications

  • Hitchcock, P., A. Butler, A. Charlton-Perez, C. I. Garfinkel et al. (2022). Stratospheric nudging and predictable surface impacts (SNAPSI): a protocol for investigating the role of stratospheric polar vortex disturbances in subseasonal to seasonal forecasts. Geosci. Model Dev. 15, 5073–5092. doi:10.5194/gmd-15-5073-2022
  • Hitchcock, P. (2021). Stratospheric vacillations in a minimal contour dynamics model. J. Atmos. Sci. 78, 2177–2193. doi:10.1175/jas-d-20-0296.1
  • Hitchcock, P., P. H. Haynes, W. J. Randel, and T. Birner. (2018). The emergence of shallow easterly jets within QBO westerlies. J. Atmos. Sci. 75, 21–40. doi:10.1175/jas-d-17-0108.1
  • Hitchcock, P. and I. R. Simpson. (2014). The downward influence of stratospheric sudden warmings. J. Atmos. Sci. 71, 3856–3876. doi:10.1175/jas-d-14-0012.1
  • Hitchcock, P., T. G. Shepherd, and G. L. Manney. (2013). Statistical characterization of Arctic polar-night jet oscillation events. J. Clim. 26, 2096–2116. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-12-00202.1


  • Ph.D. (Physics), University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, 2012
  • M.Sc. (Physics), McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, 2006
  • B.A.&Sc. (Liberal Arts, minor in Mathematics), McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, 2004