John Marshall

Professor of Ocean and Climate Science


My approach to teaching and mentoring at the graduate and undergraduate level strongly reflects the methods I employ in research.  In both graduate-level and introductory courses, I believe in engaging students, getting them interested rather than just delivering facts. My teaching is motivated by phenomena in the real world and brings together a judicious mix of observations, theory, modeling and laboratory experimentation.

Weather in a Tank

In support of my educational activities, I have put much effort into the development of a GFD teaching laboratory at MIT and associated curricula material, which is now being supported by the National Science Foundation. In collaboration with Lodovica Illari at MIT, we have developed ‘Weather in a Tank‘, an approach to teaching that combines laboratory experiments with real-time synoptic meteorological data. Paper [110] describes the philosophy behind ‘Weather in a Tank’.

See stories about the project:

Undergraduate text book

In 2008, I published an introductory text book on the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean with my colleague Professor Alan Plumb:

The book makes frequent reference to laboratory experiments, which can be carried out by students, or live in class, to illustrate fundamental principles of rotating fluid dynamics as they pertain to the general circulation and climate of the planet.

Courses being taught, Spring 2023

12.307: Weather and Climate Laboratory (with Lodovica Illari)
Tu, Th, 2.30 – 4.30, 54-1620
Hands on projects exploring the science that underlies weather, climate and climate change in the context of key global environmental challenges.


12.801: General Circulation of the Ocean
M, W: 10.30 – 12noon, 54-1827
Fundamental principles of geophysical fluid dynamics are applied to the ocean to understand and describe its global circulation patterns. Includes geostrophic dynamics, planetary geostrophy, Ekman pumping, wind and thermally driven ocean circulation, thermocline theory, western-boundary current dynamics, abyssal circulation, mixing, dynamics of circumpolar jets, baroclinic instability, geostrophic turbulence, eddy-mean flow interaction.

See previous courses taught.