Physical Oceanography

The Physical Oceanography Division is comprised of scientists, engineers, and support personnel. We support NOAA’s mission by observing and studying ocean and climate dynamics, physical drivers of ecosystem variability, and impacts of natural and anthropogenic activity on marine resources. We study how ocean changes affect climate and ecosystems and how those changes affect inland and coastal communities. In addition, we share and build on current knowledge by maintaining valuable, long-term datasets of changes over time.

Physical Oceanography

The Physical Oceanography Division is comprised of scientists, engineers, and support personnel. We support NOAA’s mission by observing and studying ocean and climate dynamics, physical drivers of ecosystem variability, and impacts of natural and anthropogenic activity on marine resources. We study how ocean changes affect climate and ecosystems and how those changes affect inland and coastal communities. In addition, we share and build on current knowledge by maintaining valuable, long-term datasets of changes over time.

Research Themes

Monitoring the Ocean Improves Hurricane Intensity Forecasts

Improvements in hurricane intensity forecasts for the Atlantic have lagged in comparison to hurricane track forecasts. Rapid hurricane intensification is often observed when tropical cyclones move over warm ocean features, given appropriate atmospheric conditions. AOML plays a key role in collecting and maintaining sustained ocean observations that monitor the thermal structure of these warm ocean features using drifters, Argo floats, XBTs, moorings, etc. Since 2014, sustained and targeted ocean observations have been gathered in support of hurricane intensity forecasts using underwater gliders. (Click image at left to learn more)

Featured Projects

Physical Oceanography Data

Data from buoys, satellites, and instruments on the sea floor can be accessed on our Data page or by clicking the links below.

Argo Data Points

Argo Data

Broad-scale global array of temperature and salinity profiling floats.

Satellite Data

Sea height anomaly, sea surface and water column temperature, and surface currents.

Drifter Data

Global Surface Currents, Drifter-Derived Climatology, and Seasonal Current Animations

State of the Ocean Observing System

The State of the Ocean Observing System is our evaluation of how well essential ocean and climate variables are being measured.

XBT Data

Temperature, structure, and time-dependent ocean properties of the Atlantic Subtropical Gyre.

Featured Publication

Screengrab of PDF paper "Mechanisms of Eddy-Driven Variability of the Florida Current" Photo Credit, NOAA.

Featured Publication

Mechanisms of Eddy-Driven Variability of the Florida Current

Abstract: In this study, mechanisms causing year-to-year changes in the Florida Current seasonality are investigated using controlled realistic numerical experiments designed to isolate the western boundary responses to westward propagating open ocean signals. The experiments reveal two distinct processes by which westward propagating signals can modulate the phase of the Florida Current variability, which we refer to as the “direct” and “indirect” response mechanisms. The direct response mechanism involves a two-stage response to open ocean anticyclonic eddies characterized by the direct influence of Rossby-wave barotropic anomalies, and baroclinic wall-jets that propagate through Northwest Providence Channel. In the indirect response mechanism, open ocean signals act as small perturbations to the stochastic Gulf Stream variability downstream, which are then transmitted upstream to the Florida Straits through baroclinic coastally trapped signals that can rapidly travel along the U.S. East Coast. Experiments indicate that westward propagating eddies play a key role in modulating the phase of the Florida Current variability, but not the amplitude, which is determined by its intrinsic variability in our simulations. Results from this study further suggest that the Antilles Current may act as a semi-permeable barrier to incoming signals, favoring the interaction through the indirect response mechanism. The mechanisms reported here can be potentially linked to year-to-year changes in the seasonality of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and may also be present in other western boundary current systems.

Screengrab of PDF paper "Mechanisms of Eddy-Driven Variability of the Florida Current" Photo Credit, NOAA.

Looking for scientific literature? Visit our Publication Database.

News & Events

Latest Posts & Publications

  • 27Mar

    New Study Shows Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Mediterranean Sea Level are Connected

    Read More →
  • 12Jul

    Unmanned Ocean Gliders Help Improve Hurricane Forecasts

    Read More →
  • 06Jun

    NOAA’s Global Drifter Program: Ocean Dynamics Data Improves Forecasting and Coastal Safety

    Read More →
  • 01Jun

    Argo Data Acquisition Center at AOML Surpasses One Million Profile Benchmark

    Read More →
  • 11Apr

    Indian Ocean Hydrographic Cruise Allows Scientists to Sample for the First Time Since 1995

    Read More →

Ocean Observations

Western Boundary Time Series Time Series Validates Ocean Models

This program has produced a critical nearly-continuous time series of ocean transport that is used in validating nearly all ocean models used for study of climate variability. The important long records collected by this program have also proven invaluable for determining time scales of variability for phenomenon such as the AMOC – the bulk of which is carried in the Florida Current and DWBC at these latitudes.

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Argo Profiling Floats Global Ocean Monitoring

Argo is an international program designed to deploy and maintain an array of 3,000 profiling floats to monitor the upper 2 km of the global ocean. It is designed to monitor quantitative changes in the state of the upper-ocean including patterns of ocean climate variability from months to decades using an array of more than 3,000 profiling floats. Argo data is used to initialize and assimilate into ocean-atmospheric forecast models, model testing and verification as well as direct quantitative estimates of oceanic heat and freshwater storage and transport.

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Global Drifter Program Observing Ocean Dynamics over Time

NOAA’s Global Drifter Program (GDP) is the principal component of the Global Surface Drifting Buoy Array, a branch of NOAA’s Global Ocean Observing System and a scientific project of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel. Its objectives are to maintain a global  array of satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys and to provide a data processing system for scientific use.

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Contact

Gustavo Goni

| Gustavo Goni

Director, Physical Oceanography Division

If you would like more information on the Physical Oceanography Division, please contact Gustavo Goni, Director of the Division.

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