Physical Oceanography

Researchers from Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) uncover new insights about the oceans by analyzing and interpreting satellite and in situ datasets and using models and data assimilation methods to study the dynamics of the oceans. Our areas of expertise include:

  • Low frequency variability of the large-scale circulation and sea level
  • Dynamics of high frequency atmospherically-forced motions
  • Air-sea fluxes and ocean-atmosphere interaction
  • Global and regional models, from the large-scale to the mesoscale

Some of our research projects address broader geophysical interests including the role of the oceans in inducing changes in the Earth's rotation, gravity field, and climate.

Ocean data analysis

We have worked extensively on measuring and monitoring the properties of the oceans using numerous remote sensing techniques.

We’re analyzing and interpreting sea-level and ocean bottom pressure variability at periods from days to decades as determined by satellite altimetry and gravity missions and by in situ measurements. AER researchers have been active participants on NASA-CNES (the French space program) altimeter teams for many years and more recently on the GRACE Science Team (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment). Monitoring ocean surface salinity from space is another topic of active research as part of our participation in NASA's Aquarius mission.

We have considerable expertise in other important ocean datasets, including atmospheric forcing fields such as wind stress and pressure and other remotely-sensed surface variables such as sea surface temperature (SST), ocean color, precipitation, evaporation, and in situ observations from tide gauges, Argo floats and other platforms.

Ocean modeling

Our modeling capabilities include the use of state-of-the-art as well as simpler (single layer) general circulation models in global or regional configurations, in conjunction with advanced data assimilation methods to derive optimal estimates of the ocean circulation on a variety of settings.

We are currently partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on efforts to implement quasi-operational, ocean state estimation systems as part of a project on Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO). Other efforts include the development of analysis and forecast capabilities in regional and coastal ocean domains, including eddy-permitting setups for the North Atlantic and high latitude Arctic regions.

To learn more about AER's Oceanography expertise, please consult our list of major projects or feel free to contact us.