Skip to main content
Greg Flato

Greg Flato outside on a winter day with his dog Bruno

Greg Flato

Director of Climate Change Research Division

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Created On: November 10, 2023
Sector:
Education Pathway: University
Readability:
7.74

Learn About My Career

I oversee a broad climate research program in ECCC, and I helped create global climate models to help us understand how and why the climate has changed.

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and grew up on a farm near Edmonton.

I now live in: Victoria, British Columbia

I completed my training/education at: I completed a BSc and MEng in Civil Engineering, at the University of Alberta. I completed my PhD in Engineering Physics at Dartmouth College.

I am the Director of the Climate Research Division, which carries out a suite of activities ranging from observations of climate change, field studies on snow and ice, measurement of greenhouse gases, and the development and use of global climate models. Climate models are computer simulations of Earth, its atmosphere, ocean, land surface, and ecosystems. We use these models to understand how and why the climate has changed. They also help us predict how it will change in the future.

Every day is different. Some days I will meet with a group of scientists in other countries to talk about a new research project. Some days I write papers or other documents summarizing scientific results. Some days I work on climate science presentations. I give these to non-experts or policy makers to help them understand important issues like climate change.

When I was an undergraduate, a research project for a course got me interested in computer modelling. At that time, in the early 1980s, it was still a fairly new area. I was fascinated by the way we could write mathematical equations that represented a physical process. Then solve those equations on a computer and see how this compares to actual observations. My first project was about how a river and its ice cover change with increasing water volume.

I find it very satisfying to be involved in research that has a tangible benefit to all Canadians, and indeed everyone. We all share this one planet – Earth. We must care for it for our children and future generations.

The research I do is used by world leaders to develop national and international climate policies, like the Paris Agreement. I was also one of the lead developers of Canada’s first global coupled climate model. This was a model that combined models of the atmosphere and ocean. It allowed us to simulate historical and future climate change.

I like woodworking and metalworking. I spend much of my spare time in my workshop building and fixing things. I also enjoy playing the guitar and listening to music.

Stay positive and stay humble. Always ask questions about your own work and the work of others. Ask if some new result makes sense. How might it be wrong? Are there other explanations? How compelling is the evidence that has been assembled? Has this been done before?

I would tell my 10-year-old self, “Don’t limit your interests. You never know where your life will take you. Be prepared to learn new things and take advantage of opportunities. Don’t be shy or afraid.”

I would tell someone interested in pursuing a STEM career to take school seriously and get the most out of it. Learn how to study and do homework effectively and efficiently. These skills are really valuable in both post-secondary and later in your career. Read lots! Watch documentaries and science programs on TV and YouTube.

What I do at work

I am the Director of the Climate Research Division, which carries out a suite of activities ranging from observations of climate change, field studies on snow and ice, measurement of greenhouse gases, and the development and use of global climate models. Climate models are computer simulations of Earth, its atmosphere, ocean, land surface, and ecosystems. We use these models to understand how and why the climate has changed. They also help us predict how it will change in the future.

Every day is different. Some days I will meet with a group of scientists in other countries to talk about a new research project. Some days I write papers or other documents summarizing scientific results. Some days I work on climate science presentations. I give these to non-experts or policy makers to help them understand important issues like climate change.

My career path is

When I was an undergraduate, a research project for a course got me interested in computer modelling. At that time, in the early 1980s, it was still a fairly new area. I was fascinated by the way we could write mathematical equations that represented a physical process. Then solve those equations on a computer and see how this compares to actual observations. My first project was about how a river and its ice cover change with increasing water volume.

I am motivated by

I find it very satisfying to be involved in research that has a tangible benefit to all Canadians, and indeed everyone. We all share this one planet – Earth. We must care for it for our children and future generations.

How I affect peoples’ lives

The research I do is used by world leaders to develop national and international climate policies, like the Paris Agreement. I was also one of the lead developers of Canada’s first global coupled climate model. This was a model that combined models of the atmosphere and ocean. It allowed us to simulate historical and future climate change.

Outside of work I

I like woodworking and metalworking. I spend much of my spare time in my workshop building and fixing things. I also enjoy playing the guitar and listening to music.

My advice to others

Stay positive and stay humble. Always ask questions about your own work and the work of others. Ask if some new result makes sense. How might it be wrong? Are there other explanations? How compelling is the evidence that has been assembled? Has this been done before?

I would tell my 10-year-old self, “Don’t limit your interests. You never know where your life will take you. Be prepared to learn new things and take advantage of opportunities. Don’t be shy or afraid.”

I would tell someone interested in pursuing a STEM career to take school seriously and get the most out of it. Learn how to study and do homework effectively and efficiently. These skills are really valuable in both post-secondary and later in your career. Read lots! Watch documentaries and science programs on TV and YouTube.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

  • Math
  • Science
  • Industrial Arts / Shop Programs

When I was a student, I would describe myself as someone who:

  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Was motivated by success
  • Felt great satisfaction getting good grades
  • Engaged in activities such as fishing and berry picking
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked

Partners

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the support of Environment and Climate Change Canada in connecting us with this individual.

ECCC is the lead federal department for a wide range of environmental issues. The department’s work focuses on minimizing threats to Canadians and their environment from pollution; helping Canadians make informed decisions on weather, water and climate conditions; and conserving and restoring Canada’s natural environment. ECCC works to ensure a clean, safe and sustainable environment for present and future generations.

  • Brianna Lummerding à genoux près d’un cerceau en plastique collectant des échantillons dans un champ herbeux.

    Brianna Lummerding

    Career Profiles

    Agronomic Innovation Manager

    I look after all things related to soil management for a group of retailers.
  • Li Tan, vêtu d'une blouse de laboratoire de couleur blanche, souriant dans son laboratoire.

    Li Tan (he/him)

    Career Profiles

    Molecular Lead

    I coordinate the day-to-day operations in the DNA Extraction Lab.
  • Tyler Mohard wearing lab coat and hair net as he works in the SyLMAND lab

    Tyler Morhart (video)

    Career Profiles

    Scientist, Beamline Responsible - SyLMAND

    I am responsible for the SyLMAND beamline at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron facility.
  • Five people, each wearing a white lab coat, standing around a lab bench that has scientific equipment on it.

    Li Tan (Video)

    Career Profiles

    Molecular Lead

    I coordinate the day-to-day operations in the DNA Extraction Lab.
  • portrait par Rashell Featherstone

    Rashell Featherstone (she/her)

    Career Profiles

    Senior Program Associate

    I coordinate projects for the development of new products at STEMCELL.
  • Kira Hoffman portant un casque rouge avec de la fumée en arrière-plan

    Kira Hoffman (she/her)

    Career Profiles

    Postdoctoral Researcher/Fire Ecologist

    I am a researcher at both a university and a not-for profit organization where I am gaining experience to become a senior researcher.
  • Zoe Ehlert closely examining a plan that has yellow flowers

    Zoë Ehlert (Video)

    Career Profiles

    Manager, Marker Assisted Breeding

    I lead a team that develops canola crops by breeding plants with traits we are looking for.
  • Daniel Meister headshot

    Daniel Meister

    Career Profiles

    Master's Student, Kinesiology

  • Zoë Ehlert, vêtue d'une blouse de laboratoire blanche, pose une boîte en carton sur une étagère.

    Zoë Ehlert

    Career Profiles

    Manager, Marker Assisted Breeding

    I lead a team that develops canola crops by breeding plants with traits we are looking for.
  • Jennifer Baltzer portant une casquette et un tee-shirt violet avec des arbres en arrière-plan.

    Jennifer Baltzer (she/her)

    Career Profiles

    Professor and Canada Research Chair in Forests and Global Change

    I work at a university, teaching students and conducting research on the impact of climate change on forests in Canada and around the world.
  • Caitlyn Lyons, prête pour la forêt avec son sac à dos et ses outils de collecte de données. La photo insérée montre Caitlyn examinant une section de gazon.

    Caitlyn Lyons (she/her)

    Career Profiles

    Ph.D. Candidate

    I am working towards my PhD and studying the forests in the Northwest Territories.
  • Joann Whalen headshot

    Joann Whalen

    Career Profiles

    Professor at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,

    I teach advanced courses on how to manage soils to produce healthy, nutritious food and maintain healthy ecosystem functions.