Photo of Russill, Chris

Chris Russill

Associate Professor and Graduate Supervisor
    Phone:613-520-2600, ext. 7415
    Building:Richcraft Hall, Room 4316
    Department:School of Journalism and Communication

    Chris Russill is an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He completed his Ph.D in communication at Penn State, his M.A. and B. A. at York University in Toronto.

    I study how we observe, know, and govern imperceptible environmental processes through media that register, record, and process otherwise undetectable environmental changes.

    My work in this field focuses primarily on the imaging of the atmosphere with respect to tropical cyclones (hurricanes), ozone depletion, and climate change. If you want to read some of this completed/abandoned work, or wish to see a CV, please go here:

    I am especially interested in efforts to integrate diverse observational techniques into the design of early warning systems, a North American fascination since the 1950s that has produced a wide array of what I call “precautionary media”. Precautionary media are systems that anticipate and approximate events to aid preparedness and security strategies, as opposed to ‘indexical’ media, or media that claim to represent reality. Precautionary media include weather forecasts, tropical cyclone and tsunami warnings, ultraviolet radiation alerts, seismic warnings, public health monitoring, and, of course, warnings of climate change danger.  I published an edited collection of articles on related topics involving Google Earth, digital globes, drones, radar, sonar, GPS, missiles, and satellite imaging in the Canadian Journal of Communication, titled, Earth Observing Media, which can be found here:


    I have three on-going projects that are interrelated and (it seems) never-ending.

    First, I am working on a book titled, Earth Fix, which examines the century-long development of an optical media infrastructure designed to register sunlit space as an environmental threat. I examine how records of light passing through the atmosphere are transformed into widely disseminated media — ozone hole images, UV indexes, automated radiation alerts, and devices for optical detection of skin cancers — in order to discuss how political contention is circumscribed by the data-processing infrastructure needed to acquire authoritative observations of imperceptible environmental change.

    Second, I am working on the history and contemporary practice of observing clouds in order to image weather and tropical cyclones (or hurricanes). I pay particular attention to the way that our most familiar images of cyclones (of their ‘eyes’ and their ‘storm tracks’) are generated through technical media (satellite, radar, computers) and implicated in diverse fields of cultural and institutional practice. It is a project that grows out of and expands my work on Hurricane Katrina done with Chad Lavin. I hope to spend some time in operational cyclone monitoring and forecasting centers in Miami, FL, Darwin, AU, and Dartmouth, NS., and to collaborate with Zooniverse’s citizen-science project, Cyclone Center, which trains people to analyze infrared satellite imagery of hurricanes online.

    Third, I’m continuing to study the diverse communities involved in climate change warning systems. My work focuses primarily on the strategies used by advocates to either amplify or dampen urgency via scientific and public discourse. I have published work on NASA, The Weather Channel, The Weather Network, Whale Wars, the 350 campaign, An Inconvenient Truth, Stephen Schneider, James Hansen, abrupt climate change and tipping point warnings, UK/US climate security initiatives, carbon tax proposals, New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol strategies, and Climate Central, an experiment with climate change TV, which can be found here

    Selected Publications: Climate Change Communication

    Russill, C. 2010. Temporal Metaphor in Abrupt Climate Change Communication: An Initial Effort at Clarification. Social, Economic and Political Aspects of Climate Change, Springer. (in press).

    Russill, C. 2010. Stephen Schneider and the “Double Ethical Bind” of Climate Change Communication.Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. (in press).

    Russill, C. & Nyssa, Z. 2009. The Tipping Point Trend in Climate Change Communication. Global Environmental Change 19, 3, 336-344.

    Russill, C. 2008. The Billion-Dollar Kyoto Botch Up: Climate Change Communication in New Zealand. Media International Australia, 127: 138-151.

    Russill, C. 2008. Sublimity and Solutions: Problematization in ICT for Development Perspectives.Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 5, 4, 383-403.

    Russill, C. 2008. Tipping Point Forewarnings of Climate Change: Some Implications of An Emerging Trend.Environmental Communication 2, 2:133-153.

    Selected Publications: Political Communication and Environmental Crisis (Co-authored with Virginia Tech Political Theorist Chad Lavin)

    Russill, C. & Lavin, C. 2011. “From Tipping Points to Meta-Crisis: Management, Media, and Hurricane Katrina,” The Neoliberal Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, Late Capitalist Culture and the Remaking of New Orleans, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (in press).

    Lavin, C. & Russill, C. 2010. Ideology of the Epidemic. New Political Science, 32.1, (in press).

    Lavin, C. & Russill, C. 2006. The Buoyancy of Failure: Battling Nature in New Orleans. Space and Culture, 9, 1: 48-51.

    Selected Publications: Applied Sustainability & Communication (Co-authored with Queens University Physicist Joshua Pearce)

    Russill C., & Pearce, J. 2006. Sustainability Communication in American Model Research Universities: A Pragmatist Heuristic and the Rationale for Energy Service Projects. In Innovation, Education, and Communication for Sustainable Development. (Ed.) Walter Leal. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Pp. 583-600. (Book chapter)

    Pearce, J. & Russill C. 2006. Commissioned Assignments in Environmental Policy. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 10, 1: 80-84.

    Pearce, J. & Russill, C. 2005. Interdisciplinary Environmental Education: Communicating and Applying Energy Efficiency for Sustainability. Applied Environmental Education and Communication. 4, 1: 65-72.

    Pearce, J., & Russill, C. 2003. Student Inquiries into Neglected Research for A Sustainable Society: Communication and Application. Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, 23, 4: 311-320.

    Selected Publications: Pragmatism and Communication Theory

    Russill, C. 2008. Through a Public Darkly: Reconstructing Pragmatist Perspectives in Communication Theory. Communication Theory 18, 4, 478-504.

    Russill, C. 2007. Communication Problems in a Pragmatist Perspective. Communication Monographs 74: 125-130.

    Russill, C. 2006. For a Pragmatist Perspective on Publics: Advancing Carey’s Cultural Studies Through John Dewey… and Michel Foucault?!. In Thinking With James Carey: Essays on Communications, Transportation, History. (Eds.) J. Packer & C. Robertson. New York: Peter Lang. Pp. 57-78. (Book chapter)

    Russill, C. 2005. “Back to Pragmatism…”: Thinking about Publics with Bruno Latour. The Communication Review, 8: 265-276.

    Popular Writing on Climate Change

    Russill, C. 2009. Whale Wars: A Deeper Shade of Green on the Public Screen. Flow TV 9.11, available at

    Russill. C. 2009. Climate Change TV. Flow TV 9.05, available at

    Russill, C. 2008. Climate change virus targets Poland! Copenhagen and China next! Flow TV 9.02, available at

    Russill, C. 2008. Climate change debate is distorted… Otago Daily Times July 17, (Daily newspaper of Dunedin, New Zealand)


    • COMM 4103: Environmental Communication
    • COMM 1101: Introduction to Communication