2011 UCLA Kodiak cruise to measure submesoscale fronts and currents near Catalina Island
James C. McWilliams received his college degrees in Applied Mathematics: a B.S. (with honors) in 1968 from Caltech, and a M.S. in 1969 and Ph.D. in 1971 from Harvard. After holding a research fellowship in geophysical fluid dynamics at Harvard (1971-74), he worked in the Oceanography Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), where he became a senior scientist in 1980. In 1994 he became the Louis B. Slichter Professor of Earth Sciences in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Institute of Geophysical and Planetary Sciences at UCLA. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
His primary areas of scientific research are the fluid dynamics of Earth's oceans and atmosphere, both their theory and computational modeling. Particular subjects include the maintenance of the general circulations; climate dynamics; geostrophically and cyclostrophically balanced (or slow manifold) dynamics in rotating, stratified fluids; vortex dynamics; planetary boundary layers; planetary-scale thermohaline convection; coherent structures in turbulent flows; magnetohydrodynamic dynamos; biogeochemical and ecosystem modeling; coastal and nearshore waves and currents; numerical algorithms; and statistical estimation theory. He is a co-creator of the Regional Oceanic Modeling System (ROMS), a widely used circulation code for highly turbulent currents.