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John D Albertson

  • John D Albertson
  • Dept: Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Title: David Croll Fellow Professor
  • Address: 113 Hollister Hall
  • Phone: 607 255-9671
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John Albertson is a Professor of CEE at Cornell University. Albertson joined the Cornell faculty in July of 2015, arriving from Duke University where he was department chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He did his undergraduate work at SUNY Buffalo and received his BS in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in structures in 1985. He then worked for six years at Northeast Utilities in CT as a Project Engineer in their Transmission Line Engineering department. While working at NU he earned an MBA (Finance) at the University of Hartford and also earned his Professional Engineers license (CT). In 1991 he left industry to return to academia, earning a Masters in Hydrology from Yale University in 1993 and a Ph.D. in Hydrologic Science at University of California Davis in 1996. At Davis his coursework was largely in fluid mechanics, atmospheric dynamics, applied mathematics, and signal processing. In 1996 he joined the faculty in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. In 2002 he moved to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University, where he worked until summer of 2015. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Cork (Ireland), the University of Cagliari (Italy), the University of Padova (Italy), and EURAC (Italy).

Research Interests

Albertson's work is generally directed toward the development of a comprehensive understanding of the exchange rates of mass (e.g. water and CO2), energy, and momentum between the land and atmosphere. His approach is to use field measurements to understand the controls on vertical fluxes and spatial turbulence modeling to draw inferences of the impacts of spatial variability on the large-scale exchange rates. The field efforts have been focused on semi-arid regions (e.g. Southern Great Plains, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Mediterranean), where water limitations constrain the dynamics. The modeling efforts have included the pseudo-spectral Large Eddy Simulation (LES) code that he developed during his PhD and later extended to incorporate remotely sensed land surface fields as boundary conditions, and to contain embedded vegetation canopies.

Current efforts are directed toward: i) mobile sensing to identify fugitive methane emissions in oil and gas production regions; 2) probabilistic prediction of wind energy production for improved grid integration; 3) sensor-model fusion to improve understanding of air quality dynamics in urban settings; and 4) the impacts of climate change/variability on water resources in semi arid regions.

Teaching Interests

As the rate of change continues to accelerate in society, so too does the rate at which our engineering graduates need to adapt. In essence, the control volumes that we draw around our engineering problems are growing rapidly to consider causes and effects that are far reaching. This poses a serious challenge for engineers entering the globalized workforce. Albertson's teaching philosophy, consequently, is that university students should have a foundation education of fundamental theories, an appreciation for the broader interconnectedness in the world, and learn well the process by which applied solutions are designed.

At Cornell Albertson will likely be teaching: * Physical Hydrology * Boundary Layer Meteorology * Flow and Transport in Porous Media

Selected Publications

  • Albertson, J D., T. Harvey, G. Foderaro, P. Zhu, X. Zhou, S. Ferrari, M S. Amin, M. Modrak, H. Brantley, E D Thoma. 2016. "A Mobile Sensing Approach for Regional Surveillance of Fugitive Methane Emissions in Oil and Gas Production.." Environmental Science & Technology 50 (5): 2487-2497.
  • Yin, J., J D. Albertson, J R. Rigby, A Porporato. 2015. "Land and atmospheric controls on initiation and intensity of moist convection: CAPE dynamics and LCL crossings." Water Resources Research 51 (10): 8476-8493.
  • Yin, J., J D. Porporato, John D Albertson. 2014. "Interplay of Climate Seasonality and Soil Moisture - Rainfall Feedback." Water Resources Research.
  • Huang, J., M. Cassiani, John D Albertson. 2009. "The Effects of Vegetation Density on Coherent Turbulent Structures within the Canopy Sublayer: A Large-Eddy Simulation Study." Boundary-Layer Meteorology 133 (2): 253-275.
  • Albertson, John D., N. Montaldo. 2003. "Temporal Dynamics of Soil Moisture Variability: 1. Theoretical Basis." Water Resources Research 39 (10).

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Croll Fellow Professor (Cornell University) 2015
  • Natural Resource Institute Outside Collaborator of the Year Award (USDA-ARS) 2000
  • New Investigator Program (NIP) in the Earth Sciences Award (NASA) 1999
  • Hydrology Section, Outstanding Student Paper Award (AGU) 1996
  • Northeast Utilities Chairman's Award for Outstanding Performance 1989


  • BS (Civil Engineering), SUNY Buffalo, 1985
  • MBA (Finance), University of Hartford, 1989
  • MES (Hydrology), Yale University, 1993
  • Ph D (Hydrology), University of California--Davis, 1996