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Joanne Muller, Ph.D. - Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL, US

Joanne Muller, Ph.D.

Expert in hurricanes and climate change | Florida Gulf Coast University


Joanne Muller is an expert in the impact of climate change in tropical and sub-tropical areas.





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College staff, students dig into Southwest Florida's hurricane history



Joanne Muller is a professor in the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences in The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University. Muller’s current research interests center on past climate change in tropical and sub-tropical latitudes with a special focus on the Southwest Florida region.

Areas of Expertise (6)


Climate Change


Sea Level Rise

Women in STEM


Education (5)

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Sir Keith Murdoch and Comer Postdoctoral Fellow 2009

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University: Ph.D. Research Student and Tutor in Marine Science 2007

James Cook University, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences: Ph.D. 2007

James Cook University, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences: B.Sc. (Honors) 2003

University of Technology: B.Sc., Earth Sciences 2002

Affiliations (4)

  • Geological Society of America
  • American Association of Geographers
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Metereological Society

Selected Media Appearances (12)

Paleoclimatologists seek clues about hurricanes in ocean sediment as Florida rebuilds after Ian

WBUR  radio


Joanne Muller shows how she and her students are coring in Estero Bay to look for sediment left by Hurricane Ian.

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Subtle shifts in Gulf Stream activity could lead to stronger hurricanes

ABC7  tv


Joanne Muller discusses climate change and the Gulf Stream.

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Southwest Florida is overdue for devastating storm surge

Fox 4  tv


Joanne Muller discusses hurricanes and storm surge.

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Is climate change in Southwest Florida to blame for one storm spawning seven tornadoes?

Is climate change in Southwest Florida to blame for one storm spawning seven tornadoes?  radio


Joanne Muller explains the correlation between tornadoes and climate change.

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Climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous, scientists say

NBC2  tv


Joanne Muller explains why a warming climate is making hurricanes more dangerous.

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Future hurricanes may be more powerful, scientists warn

NBC2  tv


Joanne Muller expects hurricane intensity to increase.

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Florida hurricanes predicted by scientist with unique technique

Fox News  tv


Joanne Muller discusses her coring technique with Fox News.

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This scientist is digging into the history of Florida’s hurricanes

New York Post  online


Joanne Muller discusses her coring technique.

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The U.S. saw record flooding last year - could SWFL also be impacted?

NBC2  tv


Joanne Muller discusses "sunny day" flooding.

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Combination of storm surge, high tide an issue for SWFL coast

ABC 7  tv


Joanne Muller is quoted talking about the impact of Hurricane Michael on the Southwest Florida coastline.

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Sinking Cities: Miami

PBS  tv


Joanne Muller is interviewed about the impacts of climate change on Miami's beachfront.

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Local efforts modest in dealing with a warming planet

Charlotte County Florida Weekly  print


Joanne Muller talks about her research into the past climate change in tropical latitudes.

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Selected Event Appearances (2)

Using the geologic record to determine long-term trends in hurricane landfalls along the west Florida coastline

5th International Summit on Hurricanes and Climate Change, Chania, Greece, 2015  

Intense Southwest Florida Hurricane Strikes over the Past 1,000 Years, (C06-P26)

XIX International Union for Quaternary Research, Nagoya, Japan, 2015  

Selected Research Grants (6)

MCA Pilot PUI: Validating and Constraining Catastrophe Models with Paleo Tropical Cyclone Data for Enhanced Risk Management

OCE Division Of Ocean Sciences $262,393

2023 - 2026 Muller, J.

Advance Catalyst: Reveal, Amplify, and Implement Strategies for Equity (RAISE)

National Science Foundation $297,013

2023 - 2026 Muller, J., Sinclair, S., Rhodes, L., Frost, L.

NSF RAPID: Understanding Hurricane Ian's Storm Surge Inundation and Sediment Transport in Order to Advance the Field of Paleotempestology

OCE Division Of Ocean Sciences $50,081

2023 - 2024 Muller, J.

A Multi-step Method for Extending the Hurricane Record Back in Time to Obtain More Representative Return Period Calculations for East Florida Communities

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $193,061

2018 - 2020 Muller, J., and Collins, J.

Reconstructing the History of Hurricane Landfalls in Southwest Florida over the Past 5,000 Years

National Science Foundation – Marine Geology and Geophysics Program $177,194

2013 - 2015 Muller, J., and Collins, J.

Past Dynamics of the Indonesian Throughflow

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Tropical Research Initiative $93,000

2008 - 2010 McManus, J.F., Muller, J., and Toole, J.

Selected Articles (6)

Multi-proxy characterization of storm deposits on Sanibel Island, Florida: A modern analog for paleotempestology


Joanne Muller, Christian Ercolani, Jennifer Collins, Shelby Ellis

2022 Hurricanes have serious impacts on human lives and infrastructure, especially as a result of flooding caused by storm surge and precipitation. To better prepare coastal populations for future hurricanes due to an increasingly warming world, a better understanding of hurricane storm surge is key. Southwest Florida is particularly vulnerable to hurricane storm surge where most of the coastline is within 2.5 m of sea level and population is on the rise (2.5% between 2019 and 2020 in Lee County). This study presents a geologic record of intense hurricane strikes from Sanibel Island dating back to approximately ca. 1920.

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Accumulated Cyclone Energy-Based Tropical Cyclone Return Periods in Florida

Annals of the American Association of Geographers

Jennifer Collins, Joanne Muller & Philip Klotzbach

2022 This article introduces an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) approach for estimating the return period of tropical cyclone (TC) wind risk in Florida. As opposed to calculating return periods directly from maximum sustained wind speed, the ACE-based approach also describes the duration of the strong winds, giving an additional dimension to the assessment of TC wind risks. Because Florida is a peninsula, TCs can move across the state within six hours of landfall, causing an underestimation of the inland wind footprint if only the six-hour reanalysis track points are employed as an input data source. This study uses four different scenarios and an inland exponential decay function to interpolate the wind speed between the six-hour reanalysis track points to feed the ACE-based return period calculation based on a 121-year record from 1900 to 2020.

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The geologic record of Hurricane Irma in a Southwest Florida back-barrier lagoon

Marine Geology

Tynisha Martin, Joanne Muller

2021 On 10 September 2017, Category 3 Hurricane Irma made landfall along the Southwest Florida coastline between Cape Sable and Cape Romano. Geologic evidence of this storm is preserved in a back-barrier lagoon behind the Big Hickory Barrier Island, which is located ~64 km north of the landfall point and is positioned 43–65 m east of the Gulf of Mexico. Modern dune height is ~0.83–0.88 m, which was exceeded by the storm surge (recorded height 0.9–1.5 m) allowing for sediment deposition in the Big Hickory Island Lagoon. Geologic evidence is likely found at this location due to proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the shallow barrier itself. Three cores were analyzed for moisture, inorganic content, grain size, and foraminiferal assemblages.

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Recent Advances in the Emerging Field of Paleotempestology

Hurricanes and Climate Change

Joanne Muller, Jennifer M Collins, Samantha Gibson, Leilani Paxton

2017 Roughly 35 % of the world’s 7.4 billion people are in the path of tropical cyclones, and coastal populations are expected to increase in the coming century. To understand the future damage that tropical cyclones could impose on an ever-growing coastal population, it is critically important to better understand the relationships between tropical cyclones and climate. Large-scale features of the climate system have been shown to affect tropical cyclone activity, for example, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been shown to influence tropical cyclone frequency in all oceanic basins on seasonal, yearly, and decadal timescales. However, the relatively short observational record (

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Intense Southwest Florida Hurricane Landfalls Over the Past 1,000 Years

Quaternary Science Reviews

Ercolani, C., Muller, J., Collins, J., Savarese, M. Squiccimara, L.

2015 Recent research has proposed that human-induced sea surface temperature (SST) warming has led to an increase in the intensity of hurricanes over the past 30 years. However, this notion has been challenged on the basis that the instrumental record is too short and unreliable to reveal long-term trends in hurricane activity. This study addresses this limitation by investigating hurricane-induced overwash deposits (paleotempestites) behind a barrier island in Naples, FL, USA. Paleotempestologic proxies including grain size, percent calcium carbonate, and fossil shells species were used to distinguish overwash events in two sediment cores spanning the last one thousand years. Two prominent paleotempestites were observed in the top 20 cm of both cores: the first identified as Hurricane Donna in 1960 whereas an older paleotempestite (1900–1930) could represent one of three documented storms in the early 1900s. An active period of hurricane overwash from 1000 to 500 yrs. BP and an inactive period from 500 to 150 yrs. BP correlate with reconstructed SSTs from the Main Development Region (MDR) of the North Atlantic Ocean. We observe an increased number of paleotempestites when MDR SSTs are warmer, coinciding with the Medieval Warm Period, and very few paleotempestites when MDR SSTs are cooler, coinciding with the Little Ice Age. Results from this initial Southwest Florida study indicate that MDR SSTs have been a key long-term climate driver of intense Southwest Florida hurricane strikes.

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Strengthening of the North-East Monsoon over the Flores Sea, Indonesia, at the time of Heinrich Event 1


Muller, J., McManus, J.F., Oppo, D., Francois, R., Brown-Ledger, S.

2012 Paleoclimate evidence from South America and Asia has been interpreted to indicate that tropical rainfall migrated southward during the Northern Hemisphere cooling associated with Heinrich stadial 1 (HS1), an event of massive iceberg discharge to the North Atlantic ca. 18–15 ka. Although arid conditions associated with such a shift are well documented in southern Asia, as far south as Borneo, debate still exists regarding the precipitation response in southern Indonesia and Australia during HS1. This study utilizes concentrations of the long-lived nuclide 232Th as a proxy for detrital riverine input and 230Th normalization to estimate the history of preserved fluxes reaching the seafloor in the Flores Sea, located between southern Sulawesi and the Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. Because the only source of 232Th to the ocean is continental minerals, this proxy is a robust indicator of continental weathering. The 230Th normalized burial fluxes of lithogenic and biogenic matter demonstrate that both detrital and biogenic fluxes in the Flores Sea were higher during HS1 than any other period in the past 22 k.y. High detrital fluxes indicate enhanced precipitation runoff from surrounding landmasses during a period of maximum southward shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. This study further constrains the northern limit of enhanced rainfall associated with a southward shift of Australian monsoon-related rainfall at the time of HS1 and highlights the value of 232Th as a proxy of continental input to deep-sea sediment records.

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