John S. Kimball

Photo of Kimball, John S.

John S. Kimball

Professor of Systems Ecology; NTSG Director


Personal Summary

I am a Professor in the Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, and Director of the Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG) at the University of Montana. My expertise and interests include understanding climate impacts to vegetation growth and water-carbon-energy connections, emphasizing boreal and Arctic ecosystems. My research is multi-disciplinary, spanning the fields of ecology, hydrology, remote sensing and ecosystem modeling. My scales of interest range from landscape to global extents, emphasizing the use of satellite remote sensing and ecological modeling for environmental assessment and monitoring. I have contributed to more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific publications in my field, which have been cited more than 13,000 times in the literature. My recent projects include: systematic mapping of freshwater habitats for juvenile salmon across all major North Pacific rivers; developing new satellite capabilities for monitoring vegetation drought stress and productivity. I serve on several NASA Earth observation mission science teams working to advance ecological understanding and applications using satellite observations. I am an avid hiker and kayaker, enjoying the wilds of NW Montana with my family.


Ph.D. 1995. Bioresource Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis OR.
M.A., B.A 1990, 1987. Physical Geography, San Diego State University, San Diego CA

Courses Taught

Integrated Systems Ecology (BIOS 534)

Research Interests

My expertise and interests include the study of climate impacts to water resources and ecosystems; water, energy and carbon cycle interactions; remote sensing; hydrological and ecosystem process modeling. My research activities integrate ecological theory, field measurements and emerging technologies including satellite optical and microwave remote sensing, and computer simulation models to describe the function, distribution and condition of vegetation and underlying environmental drivers across the landscape. I emphasize an ecosystem perspective for understanding physical and biological processes and interactions, integrating across disciplines and various scales.

Field of Study

Ecology, Hydrology, Remote Sensing, Ecosystem Modeling


-  Specialty Chief Editor for Data-Driven Climate Sciences, Frontiers in Big Data and AI

-  NASA Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) science team

-  National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) working group

-  NASA MODIS and AMSR instrument science teams

-  NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission science team

-  NASA Earth Science Data System Working Group (DSWG)

-  Member: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

-  Senior Member: IEEE Geoscience & Remote Sensing Society

International Experience

Visiting Professor, Dept. of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing China.

Honors / Awards

 - NASA science team member for SMAP, MODIS and AMSR Earth observation missions;

 - IEEE Senior Member;

 - Contributor to the USGCRP National Climate Indicators program;

 - NASA Group Achievement Award for a successful SMAP mission pre-launch field campaign;

 - NASA Group Achievement Award for contributing science algorithm and calibration/validation activities for the Soil Moisture Active Passive Mission (SMAP);

 - NASA Group Achievement Award for outstanding achievement in the development of the SMAP science data processing system and algorithms for producing global data for the science community and general public.


Selected Publications

A complete list of my work is available on Google Scholar.

Du, J., J.S. Kimball, C. Duguay, Y. Kim, and J.D. Watts, 2017. Satellite microwave assessment of northern hemisphere lake ice phenology from 2002 to 2015. The Cryosphere, 11, 47-63

Jones, M.O., L.A. Jones and J.S. Kimball, 2013. Satellite microwave detection of boreal vegetation recovery from the extreme 2004 wildfires in Alaska and Canada. Global Change Biology 19, 3111-3122.

He, M., J.S. Kimball, S. Running, A. Ballantyne, K. Guan, and F. Huemmrich, 2016. Satellite detection of soil moisture related water stress impacts on ecosystem productivity using the MODIS-based photochemical reflectance index. Remote Sensing of Environment, 186, 173-183.

Kim, Y., J.S. Kimball, D.A. Robinson, and C. Derksen, 2015. New satellite climate data records indicate strong coupling between recent frozen season changes and snow cover over high northern latitudes. Environmental Research Letters 10, 084004.

Kimball, J.S., L.A. Jones, K. Zhang, F.A. Heinsch, K.C. McDonald, and W.C. Oechel, 2009. A satellite approach to estimate land-atmosphere CO2 exchange for Boreal and Arctic biomes using MODIS and AMSR-E. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 47(2), 569-587.

Madani, N., J.S. Kimball, A.P. Ballantyne, D.L.R. Affleck, P.M. van Bodegom, P.B. Reich, J. Kattge, A. Sala, M. Nazeri, M.O. Jones, M. Zhao, and S.W. Running, 2018. Future ecosystem productivity will be affected by altered plant community distribution. Scientific Reports, 8, 2870.

Pan, C.G., P.B. Kirchner, J.S. Kimball, Y. Kim, and J. Du, 2018. Rain-on-snow events in Alaska, and their frequency and distribution from satellite observations. Environmental Research Letters.

Whited, D.C., J.S. Kimball, J.A. Lucotch, N.K. Maumenee, H. Wu, S.D. Chilcote, and J.A. Stanford, 2012. A riverscape analysis tool developed to assist wild salmon conservation across the north pacific rim. Fisheries 37 (7), 305-314.

Zhang, K, J.S. Kimball, R. Nemani, S. Running, Y. Hong, J. Gourley, and Z. Yu, 2015. Vegetation greening and climate change promote multidecadal rises of global land evapotranspiration. Scientific Reports 5, 15956.