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.

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

Nov 30, 2PM ET: Bobby West will present the informal research report “Modulation of seasonal hurricane activity and track density by interbasin SST variability” via GoToMeeting.

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

Heat extremes are the number one weather-related cause of death in the United States, prompting the climate community to study the driving forces behind these extreme events to improve their prediction. A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds an increase in summertime heat wave occurrence over the US Great Plains is linked to a larger than normal tropical Atlantic warm pool. 
Study Finds that a Larger than Normal Atlantic Warm Pool Can Lead to an Increase in US Heat Waves

Heat extremes are the number one weather-related cause of death in the United States, prompting the climate community to study the driving forces behind these extreme events to improve their prediction. A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds an increase in summertime heat wave occurrence over the US Great Plains is linked to a larger than normal tropical Atlantic warm pool. 

Featured Publication

A screen shot of the "Increasing Hurricane Intensification Rate Near the US Atlantic Coast" publication.

Balaguru, K., Foltz, G. R., Leung, L. R., Xu, W., Kim, D., Lopez, H., & West, R. (2022). Increasing hurricane intensification rate near the US Atlantic coast. Geophysical Research Letters, 49(20), e2022GL099793.

Plain Language Summary: While hurricanes pose a significant socioeconomic threat in general, those that intensify close to the coast are particularly challenging for operational forecasters and decision makers. Past studies examined basin-scale changes in hurricane intensification and the large-scale environment in the Atlantic. However, near-coastal changes in hurricane intensification have not been extensively studied. Herein, we address this using a combination of observations and numerical model simulations. Analysis of hurricane track data for the period 1979–2018 indicates that the mean hurricane intensification rate has increased significantly near the Atlantic coast…

Download Full Paper.

Increasing Hurricane Intensification Rate Near the US Atlantic Coast

Balaguru, K., Foltz, G. R., Leung, L. R., Xu, W., Kim, D., Lopez, H., & West, R. (2022). Increasing hurricane intensification rate near the US Atlantic coast. Geophysical Research Letters, 49(20), e2022GL099793.

Plain Language Summary: While hurricanes pose a significant socioeconomic threat in general, those that intensify close to the coast are particularly challenging for operational forecasters and decision makers. Past studies examined basin-scale changes in hurricane intensification and the large-scale environment in the Atlantic. However, near-coastal changes in hurricane intensification have not been extensively studied. Herein, we address this using a combination of observations and numerical model simulations. Analysis of hurricane track data for the period 1979–2018 indicates that the mean hurricane intensification rate has increased significantly near the Atlantic coast…

Download Full Paper.

A screen shot of the "Increasing Hurricane Intensification Rate Near the US Atlantic Coast" 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.

Director, Physical Oceanography Division

| Renellys Perez, Ph. D.

Deputy Director, Physical Oceanography Division

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