Born in Pinjarra, Western Australia, Fairbridge graduated from Queen's University in Ontario and earned his master's degree from Oxford. In 1941, he earned a doctorate in geology from the University of Western Australia.
He taught at Columbia University from 1955 until his 1982 retirement. While there, he was supervising editor for the Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences. In the early 1960s, he developed the so-called "Fairbridge Curve", a record of changes in sea levels over the last 10,000 years. In the 1980s Fairbridge wrote about climate's impact on the long-term evolution of shields and peneplains.
- The Encyclopedia of Oceanography edited (Reinhold Pub. Co., 1966)
- The Encyclopedia of Geochemistry and Environmental Sciences edited (Reinhold Pub. Corp., 1967)
- The Encyclopedia of Geomorphology edited (Reinhold Book Corp., c1968)
- Climate : History, Periodicity, and Predictability (Van Nostrand Reinhold, c1987)
- The Encyclopedia of Climatology edited with John E. Oliver (Van Nostrand Reinhold, c1987)
- The Physiographic Regions of Australia co-written with J. Gentilli (University of Western Australia, 19--)
- Damuth, John E.; Fairbridge, Rhodes W. (1970). "Equatorial Atlantic Deep-Sea Arkosic Sands and Ice-Age Aridity in Tropical South America". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 81 (1): 189. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1970)81[189:EADASA]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0016-7606.
- Fairbridge, Rhodes W. (July 1950). "Recent and Pleistocene Coral Reefs of Australia". The Journal of Geology. 58 (4): 330–401. Bibcode:1950JG.....58..330F. doi:10.1086/625751. JSTOR 30070464.
- Mackey, Richard. "Rhodes Fairbridge and the idea that the solar system regulates the Earth's climate" (PDF). Journal of Coastal Research. SI 50 (Proceedings of the 9th International Coastal Symposium): 955–968. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2008.
- 15 October 2003 Classification of Coasts. Journal of Coastal Research pp. 155–165
- The “Solar Jerk”, The King-Hele Cycle, and the Challenge to Climate Science
- Fairbridge, Rhodes W.; Finkl Jr., Charles W. (1980). "Cratonic erosion unconformities and peneplains". The Journal of Geology. 88 (1): 69–86.
- Fairbridge, Rhodes W. (1988). "Cyclical patterns of exposure, weathering and burial of cratonic surfaces, with some examples from North America and Australia". Geografiska Annaler. 70 A (4): 277–283.
- Pearce, Jeremy ( 27 November 2006). Rhodes W. Fairbridge, 92, Early Expert on Climate Change, Dies. New York Times
- "Earth scientist's early climate change indicator lives on". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 January 2007.