National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

Physical Oceanography Division

Research Highlights


Oceanographic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2010, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Results from collaborative research conducted by AOML and NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, were recently published in Continental Shelf Research (December, 2013). PhOD oceanographers R. Smith, E. Johns, G. Goni, J. Trinanes, and R. Lumpkin, in collaboration with other researchers at AOML (M. Wood, C. Kelble, and S. Cummings) and SEFSC (J. Lamkin and S. Privoznik) report on the surface and subsurface connectivity across the eastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) during July 2010. Full story>>


Mean meridional currents in the central and eastern equatorial Atlantic

In an article recently published in Climate Dynamics (Perez et al., 2013) , scientists in PhOD (R. Perez, R. Lumpkin, C. Schmid) described for the first time the mean vertical and cross-equatorial structure of the upper-ocean meridional currents in the Atlantic cold tongue region, using in situ observations including drifters, Argo, shipboard/lowered ADCP, and moored ADCP. This study involves collaborations with scientists from the University of Miami, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and several international institutions and makes use of data from several major tropical Atlantic field programs including NOAA's PIRATA Northeast Extension. Full story>>


Interhemispheric influence of the northern summer monsoons on the southern subtropical anticyclone

In a recent article accepted for publication in the Journal of Climate, scientists in PhOD, S.-K. Lee (CIMAS) and C. Wang collaborated with R. Mechoso and D. Neelin, both at UCLA, to explore why the southern subtropical anticyclones are notably stronger in the austral winter than in summer, which is in contrast with the Northern Hemisphere (NH) in which subtropical anticyclones are more intense in summer according to the monsoon heating paradigm. They performed model experiments to show that during the boreal summer enhanced tropical convection activity in the NH plays important roles in strengthening the southern subtropical anticyclones. Full story>>


Triggering of El Nino through trade-wind induced charging of the equatorial Pacific

In a recent study by scientists at Boston University, PHOD, and NCAR, a new mechanism was uncovered for initiating ENSO events wherein SLP-generated North Pacific trade winds induce subsurface heat content changes that serve as precursors to El Ninos. This trade-wind charging mechanism of the equatorial Pacific is fundamentally different from any previously diagnosed, and studies examining the surface and subsurface ocean dynamics associated with this mechanism are underway. Full story>>


Relationship between the off-equatorial current system and the tropical Atlantic variability

Scientists at PHOD developed a synthetic method, which combines high-density expendable bathythermograph (XBT) temperature data along the AX08 XBT transect (which runs between Cape Town and NYC) with altimetric sea level anomalies, to estimate the variability of the off-equatorial currents, such as the North Equatorial Countercurrent and the North Equatorial Undercurrent, on seasonal to interannual timescales. Understanding how the ocean dynamics is liked to anomalies of temperature and wind-stress in the tropical Atlantic is critical to understand the climate and weather variability in the adjacent continental areas. Full story>>


Global Ocean Surface Velocities from Drifters: Mean, Variance, ENSO Response, and Seasonal Cycle

Using over 30 years of observations from drogued, satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys, Lumpkin and Johnson (2013) developed a methodology to map seasonally-varying surface currents at 1/2 degree resolution. Results from this study can be used to better understand how the ocean transports properties like heat, salt, and passive tracers, and serves as a reference to study changes in ocean currents over time. One key result from this study is the global distribution of mean, seasonal and eddy kinetic energy, which totals 4.6x1017J in the upper 30 m of the ocean and reveals the presence of three large eddy "deserts", one in the Atlantic Ocean and the other two in the Pacific. Full story>>

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