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.
Kyla Drushka, Senior Oceanographer
My work focuses on understanding processes in the upper ocean and at the air-sea interface from in situ and satellite observations, on scales from a single rain storm to (sub)mesoscale to thousands of kilometers. I am particularly interested in understanding how surface forcing (solar, rain, wind) affects near-surface mixing, currents, and stratification. I am currently part of the second Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Region Study (SPURS-2), investigating how rainfall affects upper ocean salinity. I am also using in situ observations to characterize how temperature and salinity contribute to (sub)mesoscale density variability, and how we can estimate this from satellite observations of sea surface temperature and ocean color.
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.
Camrin Braun, Postdoc Scholar
I am primarily interested in the interactions between pelagic (open ocean) fishes and the biology and physics of the ocean. My current research focuses on how oceanography influences behavior of highly migratory fish species, like sharks, tunas and billfish. In the (Sub)mesoscale Group, I am investigating how mesoscale oceanography (eddies, fronts and other forms of ocean motion, like the Gulf Stream) drives movements and behavior of sharks and how different taxa with varying life histories may interact with the marine environment in different ways. To study these interactions, I deploy electronic tags on these study species and couple these observations with satellite, in situ and modeled oceanographic data and simulations to determine how oceanography influences species’ ecology and their interactions with fishing fleets.
Evan Mason, Postdoc Scholar
My research background is focused on mesoscale features and processes, especially eddies. In my current work at APL in the (Sub)mesoscale Group, I am identifying and tracking intrathermocline eddies in a global high-resolution ocean model. These anticyclonic eddies are characterised by subsurface eddy cores of weakly stratified water, and positive sea surface height signatures at the surface. Relatively little is known about the demographics and properties of intrathermocline eddies in comparison with their standard surface-intensified anticyclonic counterparts. As well as maps of intrathermocline eddy presence, results from the model analysis are enabling us to determine the characteristic surface expressions – in sea surface temperature or chlorophyll, for example. These in turn will help us to determine potential observational criteria for intrathermocline eddy identification.
Bàrbara Barceló-Llull, Postdoc Scholar
My research has the objective to study and understand mesoscale and submesoscale physical processes and to analyze their impact on the distribution of nutrients. During my Ph.D. I studied the impact of mesoscale vertical velocities on the distribution of nutrients through Lagrangian simulations. We also sampled a mesoscale anticyclonic eddy with CTD, ADCP, and water samples to infer its 3D velocity structure and to analyze its impact on biogeochemical tracers. I inferred the mesoscale vertical velocity field through the application of a generalized omega equation valid for high Rossby flows, and I analyzed the main sources of vertical motion. During my first post-doctoral research at IMEDEA (Spain), I studied the temporal and spatial hydrodynamic variability of an important choke point of the western Mediterranean Sea through the analysis of 8 years of glider data with the main objective to characterize a target region for the fast-sampling phase of the SWOT satellite mission. My current research at the APL-UW has the main goal of analyzing submesoscale features as fronts through the analysis of in situ data (CTD, ADCP, drifters and echo sounder) and remote sensing data.
Want to learn more about eddies and our research? Check out this short movie.