Joellen Russell

J. Russell

Joellen Russell

University Distinguished Professor, Biogeochemical Dynamics

Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of Integrative Science


The global oceans cover about 71% of the Earth's surface and contain 97% of the Earth’s water. Through their fluid motions, their high heat capacity, and their vast ecosystems, the oceans play a central role in shaping the Earth's climate and its variability on both short and long time scales. Central to this role is the ability of the ocean to store carbon dioxide and exchange it with the atmosphere as part of the global carbon cycle.

Changes in temperature or air circulation are part of complex, long-term cycles that are often accompanied by changes in sea level that have major impacts on coastal regions. Understanding the influence of ocean conditions on the Earth's climate and monitoring changes in ocean conditions are key to predicting climate change. I explore the ocean's role in climate using statistical analyses, ultrahigh resolution coupled climate models and Earth System Models.



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Biogeochemical Dynamics Lab


Prof. Russell's research focuses on the ocean's role in climate. Her earlier work on the westerly winds led to her greatest research accomplishment so far: the creation of a new paradigm in climate science, namely that warmer climates produce stronger westerly winds. This insight solved one of the long-standing climate paradoxes, the mechanism responsible for transferring one-third of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into the ocean and then back out again during our repeated glacial-interglacial cycles.

Her recent work includes: patterns of drought in the continental US; the interactions and feedbacks between orogeny and orography and regional and global climate; and the circulation of the methane atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan. Prof. Russell continues active collaboration with the GFDL Earth System Model and Climate Model Development Teams, and is currently serving as a member of the U.S. CLIVAR Office, Process Studies and Model Improvements Panel.


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