Laure E. Zanna works on climate system dynamics and the influence of the oceans on global scales. In July 2019 she was awarded the Nicholas P. Fofonoff Award for Early Career Research by the American Meteorological Society.
Zanna studied physics at Tel Aviv University and graduated in 2001. She earned a master's degree at the Weizmann Institute of Science. She was a doctoral student under Eli Tziperman at Harvard University. Her PhD dissertation looked at Atlantic Ocean circulation. As a young researcher she was awarded the European Geosciences Union Outstanding Poster Paper Award for her work on non-normal dynamics of thermohaline circulation. She developed a model that could visualise thermohaline circulation.
Zanna was appointed as a junior research fellow at Balliol College, Oxford in 2009. She was appointed to the Oxford Martin School and made an Associate Professor in Physics in 2011. She was made a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford in 2011. Here she worked on Meridional Overturning Circulation anomalies. She was a lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford from 2014 to 2018, when she was appointed as a David Richards Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford. Her work applies mathematical models to ocean data. By understanding how ocean heat has changed in the past, Zanna's work help make more accurate predictions about climate change.
Zanna uses Green's function to connect sea surface temperatures to that of the deep ocean. By using an ocean transport model, Zanna demonstrated that temperature could be treated as a passive variable that did not impact circulation. She demonstrated that atmospheric heat is mainly stored in the deep sea, with oceans storing up to 93 % of the heat of climate change. Specifically, the models developed by Zanna and her group showed that the deep oceans have absorbed 436 zettajoules of energy in the past 150 years. This represents around 1,000 times the worldwide human energy consumption, or 1.5 atomic bombs every second for 150 years. She also found that major ocean currents that transport nutrients and heat are changing.
Her group demonstrated that it is possible to use deep learning and sub-grid parametrisation to analyse ocean data. She is due to join the New York University Center for Atmosphere Open Science in 2019.