2010 Physical Sciences Review » Biographies » Dr. Christopher W. Fairall

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Dr. Christopher W. Fairall

Chief, Weather and Climate Physics Branch

Physical Sciences Division


Dr. Fairall is a research Physicist who is working to unravel the mysteries of how the ocean and atmosphere battle each other as part of the Earth's climate system from El Nino to hurricanes. He has spent decades developing and deploying air-sea interaction observing systems on NOAA ships and aircraft and has participated in nearly 50 research field programs and cruises from the Tropics to the Arctic icecap. His work is devoted to making direct measurements for verifying and improving the representation of air-sea interaction processes in weather/climate models. These measurements include such things as surface evaporation, absorption of heat, generation of waves, and uptake of carbon dioxide.


  • B. S. Physics and Mathematics, Florida State University, December 1966
  • Ph.D. Physics, Michigan State University, September 1970

Research Interests

Dr. Fairall's interests are in principally in the area of coupled air-sea interaction processes and oceanic/atmospheric boundary layers and the representation of those processes in models. Do the models get the right clouds (stratus, cumulus, thunderstorms) over the right ocean; transfer the right amount of carbon dioxide from the air to the water; put the right amount of heat into the tropical oceans and take it out in the polar oceans; correctly allow the ocean to power hurricanes; or faithfully represent the heat balance of the Arctic Ocean ice cap? How do we design observation systems to answer these questions?


Dr. Fairall is the author/coauthor of more than 140 refereed publications in more than 20 different journals; his papers currently receive about 500 citations each year. He has led in the development of technologies for the direct measurement of air-sea fluxes which has produced breakthroughs in, for example, the direct observations of air-sea exchange of carbon dioxide. Other contributions include development of the NOAA COARE community air-sea flux parameterization, major advances in the remote sensing of marine cloud microphysics, improved observations of the net radiative flux over the ocean, and flux parameterizations for hurricane models.


  • Elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society
  • Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environment Sciences
  • NOAA Administrator's Award
  • OAR Outstanding Scientific Paper (2)
  • Awarded, Sverdrup Gold Medal, American Meteorology Society, 2009

Recent Publications

  • Zuidema, Paquita, C. W. Fairall, E. Westwater, and D. Hazen, 2005: Ship-based liquid water path estimates in marine stratus. J. Geophys. Res., 110, Art. No. D20206.
  • Fairall, C. W., Ludovic Bariteau, A.A. Grachev, R. J. Hill, D.E. Wolfe, W. Brewer, S. Tucker, J. E. Hare, and W. Angevine 2006: Coastal effects on turbulent bulk transfer coefficients and ozone deposition velocity in ICARTT. J. Geophys. Res., 111, D23S20, doi:1029/2006JD007597.
  • Fairall, C. W., J. E. Hare, D. Helmig, and L. Ganzveld, 2007: Water-side turbulence enhancement of ozone deposition to the ocean. Atm. Chem. Phys., 7, 443-451.
  • Fairall, C. W., J. E. Hare, T. Uttal, D. Hazen, Meghan Cronin, Nicholas A. Bond, and Dana Veron, 2008: A seven-cruise sample of clouds, radiation, and surface forcing in the Equatorial Eastern Pacific. J. Clim., 21, 655-673.
  • Fairall, C. W., M. Banner, W. Peirson, R. P. Morison, and W. Asher, 2009: Investigation of the physical scaling of sea spray spume droplet production. J. Geophys., Res., 114, C10001, doi:10.1029/2008JC004918.