Adam Burnett

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Adam Burnett

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies

Department/Office Information

Geography, Environmental Studies
301 Ho Science Center

My research and teaching focuses on climate-related processes and patterns of variability. Geographically, I'm most interested in the Northern Hemisphere middle latitudes and the polar front jet stream in particular.  Questions regarding the wave structure of the jet stream, its impact on surface climate, and how its varies over time are of particular importance to me. This work involves the use of archived meteorological data, both from the Earth surface and aloft, and the application of standard statistical techniques.  

On a more local scale, I continue to be involved in the study of Great Lake-effect snowfall and the potential impacts of global warming on future snowfall amounts and geographic distribution. One of my current projects involves the question of how air flow over multiple great lakes influences snowfall in Central New York.  

Additional interests include the use of local wetland sediments to understand environmental changes and atmospheric circulation over the past 10,000 years.  I'm currently wrapping up a collaborative project based on three sediment cores from a wetland along the south end of Seneca Lake, NY.  These cores are very thick and provide exceptional detail on environmental changes within the lake and surrounding basin. 

BS, Aquinas College, 1984; MA, Ohio University, 1986; PhD, Michigan State University, 1990

GEOG 401 Senior Seminar collecting a sediment core on the south end of Cayuga Lake, NY
GEOG 401 Senior Seminar collecting a sediment core on the south end of Cayuga Lake, NY

Courses Taught Regularly

  • GEOG 131: Introduction to Environmental Geography
  • GEOG 241: Cartography
  • GEOG 245: Geographic Information Systems
  • GEOG 248: Quantitative Analysis of Geographic Data
  • GEOG 332: Weather and Climate 

Courses Taught Periodically

  • GEOG 205: Climate and Society
  • GEOG 401: Senior Seminar in Geography
  • ENST 490: Environmental Studies Senior Seminar




Study group exploring a volcanic landscape south of Wollongong at Bombo, New South Wales
Study group exploring a volcanic landscape south of Wollongong at Bombo, New South Wales

Australia Study Group

I directed the Colgate University semester-long Australia Study Group in Fall 1996 and Fall 2010.  This group, which is co-managed by the Department of Geography and the Environmental Studies Program, is based out of the University of Wollongong (UOW) in Wollongong NSW and focuses broadly on Australian environmental issues.  Colgate students enroll at UOW where they complete one course taught by the Colgate director and three courses at large from UOW, with one being from the School for Earth and Environmental Science.  

Western Australia Extended Study

I'm also involved in the Western Australia Extended Study Program.  Along with Professor Ellen Kraly (also a Colgate Geographer) I will co-led this group in May 2015.  This three-week program focuses on issues of population vulnerabilities and cultural resilience by considering Aborigines in Australia, and specifically engaging the historical geography and the contemporary experience of the Noongar community in Western Australia.

  • Mullins, H, W. Anderson, A.W. Burnett, E. Ito and I. Hajdas (under review by Physical Geography) “Paleoclimate and environmental variability during the Younger Dryas and Holocene in the Finger Lakes region, New York: solar forcing?”
  • Scull, P., A.W. Burnett, E. Dolfi, A. Goldfarm, and P. Baum (under review by the Journal of Geography). “Privacy and ethics in undergraduate geography curriculum.”
  • Mullins, H.T., W.P. Patterson, M.A. Teece, A.W. Burnett (2011) “Holocene climate and environmental change in central New York (USA),” Journal of Paleolimnology, 45(2):243-256, DOI: 10.1007/s10933-011-9495-z
  • Burnett, A.W. (2009) “Olaus Murie.” in Modern American Environmentalists. Edited by George Cevasco. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Burnett, A.W. (2005) "Teleconnections” in Encyclopedia of World Climatology. Edited by John E. Oliver, Dordrecht: Springer, 707-711.
  • Burnett, A.W., H.T. Mullins, and W.P. Patterson (2004) “Relationship between atmospheric circulation and winter precipitation d18O in central New York State,” Geophysical Research Letters, 31, L22209, doi:10.1029/2004GL021089.
  • Domack, E.W., A.W. Burnett, and A. Leventer (2003) "Environmental setting of the Antarctic Peninsula" inAntarctic Peninsula Climate Variability: An Historical and Paleoenvironment Perspective. Washington D.C: American Geophysical Union Antarctic Research Series Vol. 79, pgs. 1-13.
  • Burnett, A.W., M.E. Kirby, H.T. Mullins, and W.P. Patterson, (2003) "Increasing Great Lake-Effect snowfall during the Twentieth Century: a regional response to global warming?" Journal of Climate, 16(21): 3535-3542.
  • Mullins, H.T, A.W. Burnett, M.F. Hilfinger IV, and M. Kirby. “Millennial-scale Holocene lake level fluctuations at Green Lakes State Park, New York: implications for atmospheric circulation over the northeastern United States” (2003) Northeastern Geology and Environmental Science, 25(3): 197-205.
  • Kirby, Matthew E.; H.T. Mullins, W.P. Patterson, and A.W. Burnett, (2002) “Late-glacial-Holocene atmospheric circulation and precipitation in the northeast United States inferred from modern calibrated stable oxygen and carbon isotopes”, Geological Society of America Bulletin, 114(10):1326-1340.
  • Kirby, M.E., W.P. Patterson, H.T. Mullins, and A.W. Burnett, (2002) “Post-Younger Dryas climate interval linked to circumpolar vortex variability: isotopic evidence from Fayetteville Green Lake, NY.” Climate Dynamics, 19:321-330.
  • Hilfinger, M.F., H.T. Mullins, A.W. Burnett, and M.E. Kirby (2001) “A 2500 year sediment record from Fayetteville Green Lake, NY: Evidence for anthropogenic impacts and historic isotope shift.” Journal of Paleolimnology, 26: 293-305.
  • Kirby, M.E., H.T. Mullins, W.P. Patterson, and A.W. Burnett (2001) “Lacustrine isotopic evidence for multi-decadal natural climate variability related to the circumpolar vortex over the NEUSA during the past millennium.”Geology, 29:807-810.
  • Burnett, A.W. and A.R. McNicoll (2000) “Interannual variations in the Southern Hemisphere winter circumpolar vortex: relationships with the semiannual oscillation.” Journal of Climate13:991-999.
  • Burnett, A.W. (1994) “Regional-scale troughing over the southwestern United States: temporal climatology, teleconnections, and climatic impact.” Physical Geography, 15:80-98.
  • Burnett, A. W. (1993) “Size variations and long-wave circulation within the January Northern Hemisphere circumpolar vortex: 1946-89.” Journal of Climate, 6:1914-1920.
  • Burnett, A. W. (1993) “Regional synchronies and amplitude changes in the January 500-mb middle latitude geopotential height record.” Physical Geography, 14: 99-113.
  • Winkler, J.A., A.W. Burnett, B.J. Skipper, J.B. Moore, G. Mulugeta, and J.M. Olson. (1990) “Agroclimatic resource assessment: an example for peach cultivation in the lower peninsula of Michigan.” Physical Geography, 11:49-65.




  • Geography Department Chair, July 2008 - present
  • Learning Assessment Coordinator July 2005 - May 2012
  • Associate Dean of the Faculty, July 2005-June 2007
  • Environmental Studies Program Director, 1997-2000
  • Geography Department Chair, 2000-2003
  • William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography, July 2009 - present
  • Jerome Balmuth Award for Teaching and Student-Faculty Engagement, Colgate University, 2011
  • Colgate Presidential Scholar, July 2008-2009
  • Member of the editorial board for Physical Geography, 2009-present.
  • Chair, Climate Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, March 2006 – April 2008.
  • Vice President and Treasurer for the Climate Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, March 2004-March 2006
  • Director for the Climate Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, 2000-2002.