Fluid dynamics, the study of fluids in motion, lies at the heart of most questions that humans ask of the ocean.  Increasing numbers of people are moving to its coastlines, yet the added stress we put on the ocean can overwhelm its benefits.  Evaluating problems such as storm surges, climate change, and pollutant discharges requires a detailed knowledge of ocean, estuary, and air-sea transport processes.

I am currently a research assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology.  My specific research interests include estuary and coastal ocean physics, storm surges and sea level rise, urban coastal adaptation, turbulent mixing, air-sea interaction and gas exchange, sediment transport, urban and coastal atmospheric science, and numerical ocean and atmospheric modeling.


20 Feb 2014:  The amazing team I work with for HUD-Rebuild By Design is having a big influence on coastal protection plans for Staten Island – a wave reduction effort in this case, to compliment any possible shoreline or neighborhood efforts to adapt to coastal flooding

1 Nov 2013:  I was a guest on NPR’s national show Science Friday, discussing coastal flood adaptation after Sandy

28 Oct 2013:  I am a member of the Scape Landscape Architecture team in the federal HUD “Rebuild by Design” competition, laying out designs for resilient coastlines

02 Sep 2013:  I published two New York Times “Room for Debate” editorials this past year – one on coastal flood adaptation after Sandy, and the other on climate change and the next NYC mayor


Columbia University, Ph.D., physical oceanography, dissertation

University of South Carolina, M.S., marine science (adviser: Gail Kineke)

University of Michigan, B.S., physical oceanography

PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS (Google Scholar profile page)

Orton, P., N. Georgas, A. Blumberg, and J. Pullen, 2012. Detailed Modeling of Recent Severe Storm Tides in Estuaries of the New York City Region, J. Geophys. Res., 117(C9), doi:10.1029/2012JC008220. [abstract, PDF].

Harrison, E., Veron, F. Ho, D., Reid, M., Orton, P. and McGillis, W., 2012. Nonlinear interaction between rain-and wind-induced air-water gas exchange, J. Geophys. Res., 117(C3), C03034.  web

Ho, D.T., Schlosser, P. and Orton, P.M., 2011. On factors controlling air-water gas exchange in a large tidal river, Estuaries and Coasts, 34:1103-1116, DOI: 10.1007/s12237-011-9396-4.  web

Orton, P.M., McGillis, W.R., and Zappa, C.J., 2011.  An autonomous self-orienting catamaran for measuring air-water fluxes and forcing. In: Gas Transfer at Water Surfaces, edited by S. Komori et al., Kyoto University Press.  PDF

Orton, P. M., Zappa, C.J., and McGillis, W.R., 2010.  Tidal and atmospheric influences on near-surface turbulence in an estuary, J. Geophys. Res., 115, C12029, doi:10.1029/2010JC006312.  PDF | web

Orton, P.M., McGillis, W.R., and Zappa, C.J., 2010.  Sea breeze forcing of estuary turbulence and CO2 exchange. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L13603, doi:10.1029/2010GL043159.  PDF | web

Hickey, B. M., R. M. Kudela, J. D. Nash, K. W. Bruland, W. T. Peterson, P. MacCready, E. J. Lessard, D. A. Jay, N. S. Banas, A. M. Baptista, E. P. Dever, P. M. Kosro, L. K. Kilcher, A. R. Horner-Devine, E. D. Zaron, R. M. McCabe, J. O. Peterson, P. M. Orton, J. Pan, and M. C. Lohan, 2010. River Influences on Shelf Ecosystems: Introduction and Synthesis, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2009JC005452.  web

Horner-Devine, A., Jay, D.A., Orton, P.M., and Spahn, E., 2009.  A conceptual model of the strongly tidal Columbia River plume. Journal of Marine Systems, 78(3): 460–475, doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2008.11.025.  web

Jay, D.A., Pan, J., Orton, P.M., and Horner-Devine, A., 2009. Asymmetry of tidal plume fronts in an eastern boundary current regime. Journal of Marine Systems, 78(3): 442-459, doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2008.11.015.  web

Orton, P.M. and Visbeck, M., 2009. Variability of internally generated turbulence in an estuary, from 100 days of continuous observations. Continental Shelf Research, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2007.07.008.  PDF | web

Pan, J., Jay, D. A., and Orton, P. M., 2007. Analyses of internal solitary waves generated at the Columbia River plume front using SAR imagery, J. Geophys. Res., 112, C07014, doi:10.1029/2006JC003688.  web

Jay, D. A., Orton, P. M., Chisholm, T., Wilson, D.J., and Fain, A.M.V. 2007.  Particle trapping in stratified estuaries: Consequences of mass conservation. Estuaries and Coasts 30(6), 1095-1105, doi: 10.1007/BF02841399.  web

Jay, D. A., Orton, P. M., Chisholm, T., Wilson, D.J., and Fain, A.M.V. 2007.  Particle trapping in stratified estuaries: Application to observations. Estuaries and Coasts 30(6), 1106-1125, doi: 10.1007/BF02841400.  web

Orton, P. M., and Jay, D. A., 2005. Observations at the tidal plume front of a high-volume river outflow, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L11605, doi:10.1029/2005GL022372.  PDF | web

Emmett, R.L, Brodeur, R.D. and Orton, P.M. 2004. The vertical distribution of juvenile salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) and associated fishes in the Columbia River plume. Fisheries Oceanography 13:6, 392-402, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2419.2004.00294.x.  web

Fain, A.M.V., Jay, D. A., Wilson, D. J., Orton, P. M., and Baptista, A. M. 2001. Seasonal, monthly and tidal patterns of particulate matter dynamics in the Columbia River estuary, Estuaries 24: 770-786, doi: 10.2307/1352884.  web

Orton, P.M. and Kineke, G.C. 2001.  Comparing calculated and observed vertical suspended sediment distributions from a Hudson River Estuary turbidity maximum. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 52(3), 401-410, doi: 10.1006/ecss.2000.0747.  PDF | web


Orton, P.M. Live television interview on Hurricane Irene, on WNBC Nightly News with Chuck Scarborough. August 25, 2011.  Youtube

Higinbotham, J.R., Moisan, J. and Orton, P. 2009. Solar Powered Autonomous Surface Vehicle Development and Operation. Sea Technology 50(7).

O’Mullan, G., Orton, P., McGillis, W., Sambrotto, R., and Mailloux, B., Sniffing out the Truth, New York Times Sunday Edition, Opinions Section, January 21, 2007.  PDF | web

Orton, P.M., (on climate change) Energy crisis much broader than perceived, The Oregonian, Editorial Section, January 29, 2001.  PDF

Schwing, F.B., Orton, P.M., Jay, D.A., Batchelder, H. and Rosenfeld, L.K. 1999.  Conference explores El Nino’s relationship to the Northeast Pacific.  EOS: Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 80(11):122.