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.

Research Themes

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.

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Meridional Overturning Circulation

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.

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Ocean Observations for the Blue Economy

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.

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The Ocean and 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.

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Featured Projects

More Research Projects

Two large orange saildrones in the calm ocean.

Saildrone

A close up of a white and orange PIES mooring being tested with an acoustic transducer on the side.

South Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (SAMOC)

A white PIES lowered into the ocean off the side of a ship.

Southwest Meridional Overturning Circulation (SAM)

Featured Projects

Featured Publications

An open book and orange, pink, blue and green icons of science coming out of the book

Chiodi, A.M., H. Hristova, G.R. Foltz, J.A. Zhang, C.W. Mordy, C.R. Edwards, C. Zhang, C. Meinig, D. Zhang, E. Mazza, E.D. Cokelet, E.F. Burger, F. Bringas, G. Goni, H.-S. Kim, S. Chen, J. Trinanes, K. Bailey, K.M. O’Brien, M. Morales-Caez, N. Lawrence-Slavas, S.S. Chen, and X. Chen, 2024:  Surface ocean warming near the core of Hurricane Sam and its representation in forecast models. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10:1297974.

Pita, I., M. Goes, D.L. Volkov, S. Dong, G. Goni, and M. Cirano, 2024: An Argo and XBT observing system for the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and meridional heat transport (AXMOC) at 22.5°S. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 129(1):e2023JC020010.

Tuchen, F.P., R.C. Perez, GR. Foltz, P. Brandt, A. Subramaniam, S.-K. Lee, R. Lumpkin, and R. Hummels, 2024: Modulation of equatorial currents and tropical instability waves during the 2021 Atlantic Niño. Journal of Geophysical Research—Oceans, 129(1):e2023JC020431.

Vaz, A.C., M. Karnauskas, M. Smith, L.S. Denson, C.B. Paris, M. Le Hénaff, and K. Siegfried, 2023:  Red snapper connectivity in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine and Coastal Fisheries, 15(6):e10275.

Recent News

products 

Project Highlight

Saildrone

For the third year, NOAA and Saildrone Inc. will deploy Saildrones, uncrewed surface ocean observation platforms powered by solar, wind and wave energy, to track Atlantic hurricanes. These robots provide information about the ocean and atmosphere, including sea surface temperature, salinity, surface air temperature, humidity, pressure, wind direction and speed, and wave height. Twelve saildrones, more than ever before, will be on patrol this summer in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, with several providing collocated observations alongside underwater gliders.

To learn more about the partnership between Saildrone Inc. and NOAA, click the button below.

A saildrone is ready for deployment in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands for the 2023 hurricane season. Photo Credit: NOAA AOML

products 

Physical Oceanography Products

NOAA Wave Ensemble Reforecast A unique 20-year global wave reforecast has been released.

As part of a funded climate project to extend marine hazard information to week two and beyond, with a focus on oceanic waves, the principal investigator, Dr. Ricardo Martins Campos, has concluded a 20-year wave reforecast using GEFSv12 wind forcings. The reforecast information, along with a more detailed description, is available at the web sites below.  We are happy to have generated a long wave reforecast dataset by joining the efforts of multiple centers, including OPC, EMC, CPC, and AOML/CIMAS.

https://registry.opendata.aws/noaa-wave-ensemble-reforecast/

https://noaa-nws-gefswaves-reforecast-pds.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html

Sargassum Inundation Reports Assesses the risk of Sargassum coastal inundation in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions

Since 2011, large accumulations of Sargassum is a recurrent problem in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and tropical Atlantic Ocean. These events can cause significant economic, environmental and public health harm. AOML developed experimental Sargassum Inundation Reports (SIR) to provide an overview of the risk of Sargassum coastal inundation in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions. SIR is the result of the collaboration between the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (NOAA/AOML), NOAA/CoastWatch/OceanWatch, and USF. To view the reports, click here.

For anyone who would like to contribute with a report of Sargassum sighting, please go to this page.

Ocean Observations Viewer Providing real-time ocean observations with in-situ sampling

In situ and satellite observations, and some derived products to assess ocean and atmosphere conditions prior, during, or after tropical cyclones. To visit the Ocean Observations viewer, click here.

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

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

Global Drifter Data: Global surface currents, drifter-derived climatology, and seasonal current animations.

State of the Observing System Data: 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.

Florida Current Transport Time Series: Submerged cables provide voltage differential to measure daily transport

Science Seminars

Cover photo for the

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 upcoming seminars at this time.

Contact

| Rick Lumpkin, Ph.D.

Director, Physical Oceanography Division

| Renellys Perez, Ph. D.

Deputy Director, Physical Oceanography Division

Featured Position

Assistant Scientist

The Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) of the University of Miami invites applicants for a full time Assistant Scientist position in Physical Oceanography. This position will be within NOAA’s Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO) program. In addition, the position will involve collaborations with scientists at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of Washington (UW), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as well as international Argo partners. We seek an experienced and productive researcher to join our group and participate in the U.S. Argo project as a co-principal investigator and contribute to the management of the U.S. Argo Data Assembly Center.

The BGC Argo float at the surface with the black antenna above while the yellow body sinks below and in the blue sea with a research ship on the horizon