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

Sep 15, 9AM ET: Fabian Gomez will present “Modeling ocean acidification progression in the Gulf of Mexico during recent decades” for the Ocean Acidification Week 2021 virtual forum (via GoToWebinar). The registration link for the presentation is: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/4884691874154247182

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

Image of seafoam at the ocean surface. Photo Credit: NOAA AOML.
2020 State of the Climate Report Shows Global Ocean Processes are Shifting

Today, August 25th, the 2020 State of the Climate report was released by the American Meteorological Society, showing 2020 to be one of the hottest years on record since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Even with environmental cooling factors, such as the transition from the El Niño of 2018-2019 to the La Niña of late 2020, global trends indicate the Earth is warming and sea level is rising. Throughout the report, environmental processes that influence climate and these warming trends are documented. 

Featured Publication

First page of 'Observed Ocean Bottom Temperature Variability at Four Sites in the Northwestern Argentine Basin: Evidence of Decadal Deep/Abyssal Warming Admidst Hourly to Interannual Variability During 2009-2019' publication

Meinen, C. S., Perez, R. C., Dong, S., Piola, A. R., & Campos, E. (2020). Observed ocean bottom temperature variability at four sites in the northwestern Argentine Basin: Evidence of decadal deep/abyssal warming amidst hourly to interannual variability during 2009‐2019. Geophysical Research Letters, e2020GL089093.

Consecutive multiyear records of hourly ocean bottom temperature measurements are merged to produce new decade‐long time series at four depths ranging from 1,360 to 4,757 m within the northwest Argentine Basin at 34.5°S. Energetic temperature variations are found at a wide range of time scales. All sites exhibit fairly linear warming trends of approximately 0.02–0.04°C per decade over the period 2009–2019, although the trends are only statistically different from zero at the two deepest sites at depths of ~4,500–4,800 m. Near‐bottom temperatures from independent conductivity‐temperature‐depth profiles collected at these same locations every 6–24 months over the same decade…

Read full paper

Observed Ocean Bottom Temperature Variability at Four Sites in the Northwestern Argentine Basin: Evidence of Decadal Deep/Abyssal Warming Amidst Hourly to Interannual Variability During 2009–2019

Meinen, C. S., Perez, R. C., Dong, S., Piola, A. R., & Campos, E. (2020). Observed ocean bottom temperature variability at four sites in the northwestern Argentine Basin: Evidence of decadal deep/abyssal warming amidst hourly to interannual variability during 2009‐2019. Geophysical Research Letters, e2020GL089093.

Consecutive multiyear records of hourly ocean bottom temperature measurements are merged to produce new decade‐long time series at four depths ranging from 1,360 to 4,757 m within the northwest Argentine Basin at 34.5°S. Energetic temperature variations are found at a wide range of time scales. All sites exhibit fairly linear warming trends of approximately 0.02–0.04°C per decade over the period 2009–2019, although the trends are only statistically different from zero at the two deepest sites at depths of ~4,500–4,800 m. Near‐bottom temperatures from independent conductivity‐temperature‐depth profiles collected at these same locations every 6–24 months over the same decade…

Read full paper

First page of 'Observed Ocean Bottom Temperature Variability at Four Sites in the Northwestern Argentine Basin: Evidence of Decadal Deep/Abyssal Warming Admidst Hourly to Interannual Variability During 2009-2019' publication

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.

Acting Director, Physical Oceanography Division

| Ryan Smith

Acting Deputy Director, Physical Oceanography Division

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