Joellen Russell

Department Head

University Distinguished Professor

Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of Integrative Science

Prof. Joellen Russell is an oceanographer, climate scientist and University Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona. Her research uses robot floats, satellites, and supercomputers to observe and predict the ocean’s role in the climate and carbon cycle of the past, the present and the future. Russell’s 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 poleward intensified 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. Prof. Russell is one of the authors of the climate scientists’ amicus brief cited in the landmark 2007 Massachusetts vs the EPA Supreme Court decision that ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant covered under the Clean Air Act and must be regulated by the EPA.

Prof. Russell is the lead for the modeling theme of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM) including its Southern Ocean Model Intercomparison Project (SOMIP), in active collaboration with colleagues at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (NOAA/GFDL). Russell currently serves as Co-Chair of the NOAA Science Advisory Board’s Climate Working Group and on the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Community Earth System Model Advisory Board. She received her A.B. in Environmental Geoscience from Harvard and her PhD in Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

Joellen grew up north of the Arctic Circle in a fishing village and began working toward her current position at the age of 12 – she can’t believe she gets paid to work on the biggest challenge of our time, climate change. You can follow her on Twitter at @deepblueseanext.

Prof. Russell has joint appointments in Departments of Lunar and Planetary Sciences, Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, and Mathematics/Program in Applied Mathematics. She has been serving on the UA Faculty Senate since 2015, serves on the Honors Faculty Advisory Council for the Honors College, and is a cofounder of the College of Science’s Women in STEM Leadership. Prof. Russell is also an executive committee member of the University of Arizona Space Institute, an executive committee member of the Applied Math Graduate Interdisciplinary Program, and a faculty member of the Global Change Graduate Interdisciplinary Program.

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