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Environmental Studies

Jessica Kleiss

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

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Olin Hall

I like to explore mathematical ways to describe the world around me.  I found my home in Oceanography and Atmospheric Science: the rich natural world surrounds us with swirling eddies, layers of clouds, crashing waves, and meandering rivers of water within giant oceans.  As a visual learner, I became interested in developing image processing techniques to investigate the fluid earth using digital images, video, and satellite images.

My current work uses ground-based  sensors and digital images to estimate the three-dimensional geometry of shallow cumulus clouds.  Ground-based images are one of the best methods to observe these small yet bright and relatively warm clouds. Our description of the cloud geometry can be used to inform and validate weather and climate models.

My dissertation work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography investigated wave breaking in the deep ocean, for example under strong winds or stormy conditions. We evaluated the kinematics (motion) and dynamics (energy and momentum) of whitecaps as the wind blew offshore from the Pacific coast of Southern Mexico. The winds funnel through a gap in the Sierra Madre mountains called the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, resulting in a fascinating environment of wind, waves, upwelling, and mixing. I also did postdoctoral work at the University of Washington with the Joint Institute for Studies of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) where I studied the influence of the Gulf Stream on satellite observations of wind velocity over the ocean.


I some core courses within the Environmental Studies department: 

ENVS 220: Environmental Analysis
ENVS 330: Situating Environmental Problems and Solutions

And some Earth Science courses:

GEOL 170: Climate Science
GEOL 270: Oceanography
GEOL 340: Spatial Problems in Earth Systems Science


Wagner TJ, JM Kleiss, 2016, Error characteristics of ceilometer-based observations of cloud amount, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, in press. 

Romero, L., WK Melville, JM Kleiss, 2012, Spectral Energy Dissipation due to Surface-Wave Breaking, Journal of Physical Oceanography 42 (9), p. 1421-1444.

Kleiss JM , WK Melville, 2011. The Analysis of Sea Surface Imagery for White Cap Kinematics, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 28, p. 219-243

Kleiss JM, WK Melville, 2010. Observations of wave breaking kinematics in fetch-limited seas, Journal of Physical Oceanography, 40 (12), p. 2575-2604 

Melville WK, L Romero, JM Kleiss. 2005. Extreme Waves in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Aha Hulikoa Proceedings p. 23-28.


Academic Credentials

Ph.D. 2009 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, Physical Oceanography

B.S. 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mathematics
B.S. 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

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Environmental Studies


Jessica Kleiss’s office is located in room 226B of Olin Center.


voice 503-768-7368

Jessica Kleiss Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies Lewis & Clark 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 55 Portland OR 97219 USA

45.451227254264; -122.667546036987