GE Swaters, PhD, M.Sc, Hons. B. Math.

Professor, Faculty of Science - Mathematics & Statistical Sciences


Professor, Faculty of Science - Mathematics & Statistical Sciences
(780) 492-3396
537 Central Academic Building
11324 - 89 Ave NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2G1


Area of Study / Keywords

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Theoretical Physical Oceanography Hydrodynamic Stability Theory Nonlinear Waves and Vortices


Professor Swaters received the Honours B. Math. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, and received the Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and Physical Oceanography from the University of British Columbia.  Dr. Swaters completed Post-Doctoral studies in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Since joining the University of Alberta, Dr. Swaters has held concurrent visiting positions at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, USA, the Isaac Newton Institute for the Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, UK, and the French Institute for the Research and the Exploitation of the Sea in Brest, France. 

Professor Swaters, whose research is focused on understanding the dynamics of ocean currents, has received the CAIMS*SCMAI Research Prize from the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society, and both the Graduate Student Prize and the President’s Prize from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. Within the University of Alberta, Dr. Swaters has received the Faculty of Science Research Award, the McCalla Research Professorship, and the Killam Annual Professorship.

Dr. Swaters has served the University of Alberta as Project Coordinator for the Faculty of Science, Lead Negotiator and President of the Association of Academic Staff, Director of the Applied Mathematics Institute, President of the Faculty Club, Associate Chair (Graduate Studies & Research) of the Department of Mathematical & Statistical Sciences, and Associate Director of the Institute for Geophysical Research.


The ocean is the regulator of Earth's climate. The world's oceans store an enormous quantity of heat that is redistributed throughout the world via the currents. Because the density of water is about a thousand times larger than the density of air, the ocean has a substantial inertia associated with it compared to the atmosphere. This implies that it takes an enormous quantity of energy to change an existing ocean circulatory pattern as compared to the atmospheric winds. For this reason, one can think of the ocean as the "memory" and "integrator" of past and evolving climate states. Because of the dominant role played by the ocean in climate change, it is vital to understand the long time temporal variability that can occur in ocean dynamics on a planetary scale.

Ocean currents can be characterized into two broad groups. The first are the currents that are wind driven. These currents are most intense near the surface of the ocean. Their principal role is to transport warm equatorial waters toward the Polar Regions. The second are the currents that are driven by density contrasts with the surrounding waters. In this latter group are the deep, or abyssal, currents flowing along or near the bottom of the oceans in narrow bands. Their principal role is to transport cold, dense waters produced in the Polar Regions equator ward (and beyond). 

My research group has worked toward understanding the dynamics of these abyssal currents. In particular, we have focused on developing mathematical and computational models to describe the evolution, including the transition to instability and interaction with the surrounding ocean, of these flows. The goal of this research is to better understand the temporal variability of the planetary scale dynamics of the ocean climate system. Our work can be seen as "theoretical" in the sense that we attempt to develop new models to elucidate the most important dynamical balances at play and "process-oriented" in the sense that we attempt to use these models to make concrete predictions about the evolution of these flows. As such, our work is an interdisciplinary blend of physical oceanography, classical applied mathematics and high-performance computational science.


Dr. Swaters has given numerous undergraduate and graduate courses in Mathematics and Fluid Dynamics over the course of his career. 

In particular, Dr. Swaters updated and modernized the two-term 4th-year Honours Applied Mathematics courses in Intermediate Partial Differential Equations (Mathematics 436 and 438), which he has given for many years. Dr. Swaters also introduced new mathematics graduate courses in Hydrodynamic Stability TheoryNonlinear Waves, and in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics.

Dr. Swaters founded the weekly Nonlinear Waves/Fluid Dynamics Research Seminar in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences