MIT EAPS Directory

Glenn R. Flierl

Professor of Oceanography

Glenn Flierl is an oceanographer concerned with the theory of geophysical vortices and jets. His interests include modeling the physics, chemistry, and biology of strongly nonlinear ocean eddies and meandering jets, such as the Gulf Stream, which meander around their average paths with wave-like features having many different scales and periods, with resulting nonlinearities playing a significant role in the dynamics. He uses various analytical and numerical models to analyze the dynamics of features such as vortices in vertically and horizontally sheared flows, and the interactions between waves and vortices, and makes comparisons to recent observational studies.

He is conducting research on the growth of unstable perturbations on the Gulf Stream into finite-amplitude meanders and the way in which waves and eddies form in the region where the current detaches from the coast. Flierl is also investigating the physical and biological dynamics of the Georges Bank region. The tides, large-scale currents and jets, instability waves, and transient motions induced as off-shore eddies impinge upon the continental shelf transport and mix the biological populations and may also, by upwelling nutrients or transporting material off-shore, affect the growth and survival of plankton and fish.

Other interests include the theory of isolated nonlinear eddies with application to Gulf Stream rings, Jupiter’s Red Spot, and vortices in the solar nebula; biological patchiness and its role in ecosystem dynamics, and Hamiltonian dynamics of geophysical flows.

With a PhD in Physics from Harvard (1975), Professor Flierl joined the faculty in 1976.


O'Neill, M. E. and Emanuel, K. A. and Flierl, G. R. (2015) Polar vortex formation in giant-planet atmospheres dues to moist convection Nature Geoscience, vol. 8, no. 7, pp. 523-U118

Chen, R. and Flierl, G. R. (2015) The Contribution of Striations to the Eddy Energy Budget and Mixing: Diagnostic Frameworks and Results in a Quasigeostrophic Barotropic System with Mean Flow Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 45, no. 8, pp. 2095-2113, doi: 10.1175/jpo-d-14-0199.1

Chen, R. and Flierl, G. R. and Wunsch, C. (2015) Quantifying and Interpreting Striations in a Subtropical Gyre: A Spectral Perspective Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 387-406, doi: 10.1175/jpo-d-14-0038.1

Chen, R. and Gille, S. T. and McClean, J. L. and Flierl, G. R. and Griesel, A. (2015) A Multiwavenumber Theory for Eddy Diffusivities and Its Application to the Southeast Pacific (DIMES) Region Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 45, no. 7, pp. 1877-1896, doi: 10.1175/jpo-d-14-0229.1

Flierl, G. R. and Woods, N. W. (2015) Copepod Aggregations: Influences of Physics and Collective Behavior Journal of Statistical Physics, vol. 158, no. 3, pp. 665-698, doi: 10.1007/s10955-014-1162-0

Olson, E. M. and McGillicuddy, D. J. and Flierl, G. R. and Davis, C. S. and Dyhrman, S. T. and Waterbury, J. B. (2015) Mesoscale eddies and Trichodesmium spp. distributions in the southwestern North Atlantic Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, vol. 120, no. 6, pp. 4129-4150, doi: 10.1002/2015jc010728


American Meteorological Society Fellow (2015) | Henry Stommel Research Award of the American Meteorological Society (2015) | American Geophysical Union Fellow (2014)

Contact Information

t: 617 253 4692





Ph.D., Physics, Harvard University, 1975
B.A., Physics, Oberlin College, 1970

Administrative Assistant