Glenn R. Flierl

Professor of Oceanography

Contact Info:

Office Phone






Darius Collazo 617.253.0251

Oceanographer exploring planetary-scale turbulence, fluid dynamics of atmospheres and oceans, and the effects of ocean flows on ecosystems.

Research Interests

I’m an oceanographer concerned with the theory of geophysical vortices and jets. In particular, I’m interested in modeling the physics, chemistry, and biology of strongly nonlinear ocean eddies and meandering jets—such as the Gulf Stream which meanders around its average path with wave-like features, having many different scales and periods, with resulting nonlinearities playing a significant role in the dynamics. I also investigate the physical and biological dynamics of how tides, large-scale currents and jets, and off-shore eddies affect the growth and survival of plankton and fish through mixing, upwelling nutrients, and transporting material off-shore. 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.

Topics I investigate:

  • Fluid dynamics of atmospheres and oceans
  • Planetary-scale turbulence (weather systems, ocean eddies); dynamics and implications for transport of heat, pollutants, and other properties
  • Effects of ocean flows on ecosystems

Biographic Sketch

Glenn Flierl joined the EAPS faculty in 1976. After earning a bachelor’s in physics at Oberlin College in 1970, Flierl went on to complete his PhD in physics at Harvard University in 1975. Flierl is known for advancing our understanding of the physics of turbulent processes in the oceans and atmosphere—how properties like eddies, jets, and nonlinear flows form. He also is known for leading the iGlobe/MIT Project. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the iGlobe/MIT interface was developed as a tool for education and public outreach by projecting movies using near real-time data onto a spherical display, depicting Earth, oceanic, and atmospheric processes over time.

Recognized as a leader in the field, Flierl is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and has directed and served as a principal lecturer for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s prestigious Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Summer School. In 2015, Flierl was awarded the Henry Stommel Research Award of the American Meteorological Society.

Key Awards & Honors

  • 2015 • Henry Stommel Research Medal, American Meteorological Society
  • 2015 • Fluid Dynamics in Earth and Planetary Sciences Lecturer, Kyoto, Japan
  • 2014 • Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

Key Publications

  • Kang, Wanying & Flierl, Glenn. (2020). Spontaneous formation of geysers at only one pole on Enceladus’s ice shell. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117. 202001648. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2001648117.

  • Prend, C. J.Flierl, G. R.Smith, K. M., & Kaminski, A. K. (2021). Parameterizing eddy transport of biogeochemical tracers. Geophysical Research Letters48, e2021GL094405. DOI: 10.1029/2021GL094405

  • Flierl, Glenn R. (2022). Topographic solitary waves and groups. Ocean and Coastal Research, 70 (suppl 1). DOI: 10.1590/2675-2824070.22046grf