University of Texas at Austin
Helen Pillar




office POB 3.120

Helen Pillar

Research Associate Computational Research in Ice and Ocean Systems Group


Helen is a Research Associate in the Computational Research in Ice and Ocean Systems (CRIOS) group, led by Professor Patrick Heimbach, at the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Helen completed her PhD in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, working with Professors Helen Johnson and David Marshall. Her thesis explored mechanisms underpinning variability in the Atlantic Overturning, using numerical models for sensitivity and attribution experiments. Her core research interests lie in understanding the dynamics of the global ocean circulation and its role in the climate system and in developing tools enabling this task. Since joining CRIOS in 2018, she has contributed to the production of a dynamically consistent model-data synthesis for the Arctic and subpolar North Atlantic (ASTE), led by CRIOS colleague Dr. An Nguyen and made freely available to the research community. Her current collaborations focus on leveraging ASTE's adjoint-based infrastructure to explore signals sequestered within existing ocean datasets and contribute to future observing network design.

Helen's research interests are centered on quantifying and understanding the variability in the large-scale ocean circulation and associated transports of heat and freshwater on seasonal to decadal timescales. Additionally, she is very interested in ocean observing system assessment and design, working to support increasingly effective, holistic and societally beneficial monitoring of the current state of the ocean and detection of future change. Helen is currently funded as Co-PI on projects interrogating observational strategies in the subpolar North Atlantic and Topical Pacific. She is also a member of the "Implementing a Deep Ocean Observing Strategy” (iDOOS) Team to accelerate the generation and use of deep ocean data.

1. Y. Kostov, H.L. Johnson, D. Marshall, P. Heimbach, G. Forget, N.P. Holliday, M.S. Lozier, F. Li, H.R. Pillar and T. Smith, 2021: Distinct Sources of Subtropical and Subpolar Atlantic Overturning Variability. Nature Geoscience,
2. A. T. Nguyen, H.R. Pillar, V. Oca~na, A. Bigdeli, T. Smith and P. Heimbach, 2021: The Arctic Subpolar gyre sTate Estimate (ASTE): Description and Assessment of a Data-Constrained, Dynamically Consistent Ocean-Sea Ice Estimate for 2002-2017. Journal for Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 13, e2020MS002398.
3. A. Bigdeli, A. T. Nguyen, H.R. Pillar, V. Oca~na and P. Heimbach, 2020: Atmospheric Warming Drives Growth in Arctic Sea-Ice: A Key Role for Snow. Geophys. Res. Lett., 47, e2020GL090236.
4. N. Loose, P. Heimbach, H.R. Pillar and K. Nisancioglu, 2020: Quantifying Dynamic Proxy Potential through Shared Adjustment Physics in the North Atlantic. J. Geophys. Res. Ocean., 125(9), e2020JC016112.
5. Madsen, M.V., H.C. Steen-Larsen, M. Horhold, J. Box, S. Berben, E. Capron, A.-K. Faber, A. Hubbard, M. Jensen, T. Jones, S. Kipfstuhl, I. Koldtoft, H.R. Pillar, B. Vaughn, D. Vladimirova and D. Dahl-Jensen, 2019: Evidence of Isotopic Fractionation During Vapor Exchange Between the Atmosphere and the Snow Surface in Greenland. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 124, 2932-2945.
6. Pillar, H.R., H.L. Johnson, D.P. Marshall, P. Heimbach and S. Takao, 2018: Impacts of Atmospheric Reanalysis Uncertainty on AMOC estimates at 25N. J. Climate, 31, 8719-8744.
7. Lozier, M. S., and 31 others inc. H.R. Pillar, 2017. Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program: A New International Ocean Observing System. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc., 98, 737-752.
8. Pillar, H.R., P. Heimbach, H.L. Johnson and D.P. Marshall, 2016: Dynamical Attribution of Recent Variability in Atlantic Overturning. J. Climate, 29, 3339{3352.
9. Marshall, D.P. and H.R. Pillar, 2011: Momentum Balance of the Wind-Driven and Meridional Overturning Circulation. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 41, 960-978.
10. Pillar, H.R., A. Nguyen, J.-M. Campin, and P. Heimbach, 2021: Momentum Budget Evaluation in ASTE Release 1 Part 1: Full momentum budget. DSpace@MIT,, Technical Report.
11. A. Nguyen, Pillar, H.R., V. Oca~na, T. Smith, and P. Heimbach, 2021: Arctic Subpolar gyre sTate Estimate, Release 1 (ASTE R1) prole data 2002-2017 Arctic Data Center,, doi:10.18739/A2VX0643Z.