Physical Oceanography Division

Physical Oceanography

The Physical Oceanography Division is comprised of scientists, engineers, and technical support staff that aid NOAA’s mission by observing and studying ocean and climate dynamics, the physical drivers of ecosystem variability, and the impacts of natural and anthropogenic activities on marine resources. We study how ocean changes affect climate, marine ecosystems, and coastal and inland communities. We also share and build on the current state of knowledge by maintaining valuable, long-term datasets of changes over time.

Visit the Physical Oceanography Division

Overturning Oceans & Societal Impacts

The overturning circulation is one of the primary ways that the oceans move heat, salt, carbon and nutrients throughout the global oceans. Changes in the AMOC over time have a pronounced impact on a variety of socially important weather and climate phenomena, on the blue economy, and on commerce. AOML scientists have shown that these changes predict precipitation changes around the world.

Visit the Meridional Overturning Circulation Page

Global Ocean Observing System

AOML works with partners around the world to develop and maintain key components of these systems of observing technologies, known collectively as the Global Ocean Observing System. The resulting observations have been shown to improve weather forecasts and advance our knowledge of climate fluctuations.

Visit the Global Ocean Observing System Page

Ocean Monitoring to Protect Marine Mammals and Manage Fisheries

AOML scientists have developed several tools and reporting systems in conjunction with our partners to reduce ship strikes for endangered right whales, track larval distributions for better stock assessments, and provide information to track bluefin tuna fisheries.

Visit the Observations for the Blue Economy Page

Oceanographers Help Improve Outlooks of Extreme Weather

Scientists at AOML are working to extend the forecast for extreme weather events (such as heatwaves, tornadoes, and hurricanes).  Improved forecasts serve to provide emergency managers, government officials, businesses, and the public with better advanced warning to minimize catastrophic loss of life and damage to critical infrastructure.

Visit the Extreme Weather Page

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.

Science Seminars

The Physical Oceanography Division at AOML hosts seminars to share its latest work and strengthen collaborations for an Earth Systems approach to research. Watch seminars from previous years on Youtube.

Upcoming Seminars

There are no seminars scheduled at this time.

saildrone

Project Highlight

Saildrone 1054 equipped with a new compact wing designed for extreme high-wind events. Image credit: Saildrone

Saildrone 1054 equipped with a new compact wing designed for extreme high-wind events. Image credit: Saildrone

Observations for Weather & Climate

Saildrone

Five uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), known as saildrones, are being deployed from the US Virgin Islands and Florida in July to gather key data throughout the 2021 Tropical Atlantic hurricane season. The mission is in support of hurricane monitoring and prediction and is a joint project between AOML, CIMAS, PMEL, CICOES, and Saildrone, Inc. These saildrones are equipped with specially designed “hurricane wings” to enable them to operate in extreme conditions. The mission aims to improve understanding and predictability of tropical cyclone intensity changes and advance knowledge of the ocean-atmosphere interactions that fuel them.

To learn more visit the AOML/ PMEL Saildrone webpage.

Recent News

A schematic of the major currents feeding the North Atlantic comprising the Northern limb of the AMOC.
Study Explores the Relationship of Anthropogenic Carbon and Ocean Circulation

In a recently published study in Nature Geoscience, scientists at AOML and international partners quantified the strength and variability of anthropogenic (man-made) carbon (Canth) transport in the North Atlantic Ocean. The study found that buildup of Canth in the North Atlantic is sensitive to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) strength and to Canth uptake at the ocean’s surface.

Featured Publication

Chakravorty, S., Perez, R. C., Gnanaseelan, C., & Anderson, B. T. (2021). Revisiting the recharge and discharge processes for different flavors of El Niño. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(11), e2020JC017075.

Plain Language Summary: The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the largest source of year-to-year climate variability. ENSO has a pronounced influence on regional and global circulation and precipitation patterns and thus has considerable worldwide socio-economical impacts. El Niño, the warm phase of ENSO, exhibits modulation in the longitudinal location of its maximum warming, creating what is referred to as ENSO diversity. For conventional El Niño events, maximum surface warming is located in the eastern equatorial Pacific, for which subsurface warming along the tropical Pacific has proven to serve as a predictor several months in advance. Previous studies disagree on whether this subsurface warming is similarly essential for El Niño events that have peak surface warming in the central Pacific. The authors developed an improved method for identifying these two types of El Niño in an ocean reanalysis product. Using this improved method, they found no clear evidence of a subsurface warming precursor for the central Pacific El Niño events along the equator. This lack of a tropical subsurface precursor limits our ability to predict these types of El Niño events.

Download Full Paper.

Revisiting the Recharge and Discharge Processes for Different Flavors of El Niño

Chakravorty, S., Perez, R. C., Gnanaseelan, C., & Anderson, B. T. (2021). Revisiting the recharge and discharge processes for different flavors of El Niño. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(11), e2020JC017075.

Plain Language Summary: The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the largest source of year-to-year climate variability. ENSO has a pronounced influence on regional and global circulation and precipitation patterns and thus has considerable worldwide socio-economical impacts. El Niño, the warm phase of ENSO, exhibits modulation in the longitudinal location of its maximum warming, creating what is referred to as ENSO diversity. For conventional El Niño events, maximum surface warming is located in the eastern equatorial Pacific, for which subsurface warming along the tropical Pacific has proven to serve as a predictor several months in advance. Previous studies disagree on whether this subsurface warming is similarly essential for El Niño events that have peak surface warming in the central Pacific. The authors developed an improved method for identifying these two types of El Niño in an ocean reanalysis product. Using this improved method, they found no clear evidence of a subsurface warming precursor for the central Pacific El Niño events along the equator. This lack of a tropical subsurface precursor limits our ability to predict these types of El Niño events.

Download Full Paper.

PhOD_Pub_El_Nino

Looking for scientific literature? Visit our Publication Database.

Driving Innovative Science

Project Report

This project report provides highlights of ongoing research projects that are either led by or involve AOML scientists together with essential science support personnel from NOAA, the University of Miami/Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS), and our international partners.

Contact

| Rick Lumpkin, Ph.D.

Director, Physical Oceanography Division

| Ryan Smith

Acting Deputy Director, Physical Oceanography Division

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