The (Sub)mesoscale Group resides in the Air – Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Department of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. We investigate how physical processes modulate life in the ocean.  Of primary interest is the influence of mesoscale O(10-100 km) and submesoscale O(1-10km) features, including eddies, meanders, and fronts, on air-sea fluxes, marine ecosystem and ocean mixing.  


Peter Gaube, Senior Oceanographer


My research focuses on the biological response to the horizontal and vertical movement of water masses in the open ocean, and on the fate of the chemicals, nutrients, and particulates that move with them.  I am currently investigating the influence of nonlinear mesoscale ocean eddies—large, swirling masses of water that can travel for hundreds of miles—on primary production—the ability of phytoplankton to convert inorganic carbon in the atmosphere and ocean into compounds that form the building blocks of life.  In addition, I seek to understand why eddies originating in different regions have different effects on marine ecosystems.  To investigate these interactions between the physical and biological marine systems in the open ocean, I use satellite observations, in-situ measurements (Argo floats, gliders, etc.), and the output of numerical simulations.




Alice Della Penna, Postdoc Scholar


My research aims at understanding how marine organisms (from phytoplankton to top predators) respond to the dynamic and heterogeneous environment of the open ocean. During my Ph.D. I studied how mesoscale features such as eddies and fronts (the oceanic equivalent of atmospheric cyclones and atmospheric fronts) influence top marine predators (seals and penguins) and phytoplankton (the base of all open ocean trophic webs). With my project at APL / Gaubelab I am focusing on the effect of sub- and mesoscale ocean dynamics on intermediate trophic levels (zooplankton and fish). These animals are key stones of marine ecosystems, linking primary production to the upper levels of trophic webs (including humans). Yet, too small to be “tagged” like large fish, marine mammals and seabirds, and invisible to satellites, relatively little is known about their distribution. To find out more about the response of these elusive animals to mesoscale ocean dynamics and other components of marine ecosystems, I combine bio-logging of top predators, in-situ observations from both research voyages and autonomous platforms and satellite data.



Aurélie Moulin, Research Oceanographer


I study how heat and salt are redistributed in the upper layers of the ocean as a result of changes in atmospheric conditions. When mesoscale eddies form they have specific temperature, salinity, and velocity characteristics that over time will be mixed vertically and horizontally until they completely dissipate. The rate of mixing within eddies may be different than in the open ocean around them. Understanding how mixing inside eddies behave compared to their ambient may contribute to the understanding their lifetime and interactions with marine life.

My background is in the mixing processes involved in the dissipation of heat and freshwater in the top 10 meters of equatorial oceans subject to strong insolation, variable precipitation, and different wind regimes.




Want to learn more about eddies and our research?  Check out this short movie.


Want to learn more about eddies and satellite data? Check out some of these links.


An impressive animation of eddies an ocean currents generated by the NASA visualization team.

A short history of the study of mesoscale ocean eddies.