Division of Ocean Sciences - Fall 2002 Newsletter
NSF 04-003
(Replaces NSF 03-014)

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Crosscutting Programs | Biological Oceanography | Chemical Oceanography | Physical Oceanography | Marine Geology and Geophysics | Ocean Drilling Program | Education | Ocean Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination

Physical Oceanography

Funding highlights

The range of ocean science covered by recent proposals continues to be broad. Topics range from the nearshore dynamics to the physics of eddies and mixing to deep circulations. The November 2002 panel addressed over 100 proposals. Two young investigators, Britt Raubenheimer (WHOI) and Donald Slinn (University of Florida) received CAREER awards to pursue work on swash zone processes and nearshore circulation modeling, respectively. In addition to the three large field projects described under CLIVAR news, three other field oriented process studies were funded. One project is looking at air-sea interactions and boundary layer coupling under high wind conditions led by Ken Melville (SIO) and Carl Friehe (UCI). The second one is looking at entrainment flux in the Pacific equatorial cold tongue under the direction of R-C Lien and Eric D’Asaro at APL/UW. The other one led by Jeff Nystuen from APL/UW focuses on rainfall variability in the Mediterranean Sea using in-situ and remote sensing instruments. Other projects included two laboratory experiments on double diffusion and breaking internal waves, several theoretical and modeling studies and a few analysis projects.

Scientific Awards

This year was a banner year for awards going to physical oceanographers supported by the program. Jeff Nystuen of the Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington was selected as the recipient of the 2003 Medwin Prize in Acoustical Oceanography from the Acoustical Society of America. He received the Prize for the development and effective use of measurements of underwater sound generated by rain to determine rainfall rate and type at sea. Bob Weller of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was honored with the Sverdrup Gold Medal by the American Meteorological Society for his contributions to understanding the interactions between the oceans and atmosphere. Kurt Polzin, an associate scientist in the Department of Physical Oceanography at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, became the first U.S. recipient of the European Geophysical Society’s Fridtjof Nansen Medal, one of the society’s highest honors, in recognition of his pioneering contributions to the measurement of mixing in the deep ocean. Finally, Tom Rossby from the University of Rhode Island received the Walter Munk Award for Distinguished Research in Oceanography Related to Sound and the Sea at The Oceanography Society meeting held in New Orleans in June. Dr. Rossby is being recognized for “creative and pioneering developments of acoustically tracked floats, inverted echo sounders and other ocean acoustic methodologies, their innovative application to measure and understand physical oceanographic processes, and for his unselfish and dedicated efforts to freely share those developments with the international oceanographic community.” Congratulations to all four!

Physical Oceanography Dissertation Symposium

Following a successful inaugural meeting in the spring of 2002, the second Physical Oceanography Dissertation Symposium (PODS) will take place in late September on the Big Island of Hawaii in conjunction with the DISCO Symposium. This program is designed to introduce new PhD graduates to each other and the physical oceanographic community and to promote the exchange of recent research results and ideas. The meeting will feature detailed presentations from each of the new graduates intermixed with discussion sessions on topics relevant to young investigators, such as new directions of science, proposal-writing, and how to initiate research programs. For more information, see http://www.pods-symposium.org

The WOCE legacy

The World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), conducted under the auspices of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), was designed to investigate the ocean’s role in decadal climate change. Scientists from more than 30 countries collaborated during the WOCE field program to sample the ocean on a global scale with the aim of describing its large-scale circulation patterns, its effect on gas storage, and how it interacts with the atmosphere. As the data are collected and archived, they are being used to construct improved models of ocean circulation and the combined ocean-atmosphere system that should improve global climate forecasts. In November 2002, the final international WOCE Science Conference brought scientists from around the world to San Antonio to discuss the scientific achievements of the program and recognize the contribution of many individuals, some of them no longer with us. A set of two DVD discs containing not only the data collected during WOCE but also documentation of its planning were distributed at the meeting and is available through NODC (http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/woce_v3/ ).

In the coming year, as its final activity, the WOCE program will publish a series of four atlases, concentrating respectively on the hydrography of the Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans. The Southern Ocean is given a separate volume because of the importance of the circumpolar flow on the transport of heat, freshwater and dissolved components. Each atlas will contain between 265 and 310 plates and approximately 1500 copies will be produced and distributed worldwide. The volumes each have three main components: Full-depth sections, horizontal maps of properties on density surfaces and depth levels, and property-property plots. The vertical sections feature potential temperature, salinity, potential density, neutral density, oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, silicate, CFC-11, d3He, tritium, 14C, 13C, total alkalinity and total carbon dioxide, against depth along the WOCE Hydrographic Program one-time lines.

In addition to the hard-copy versions of the atlases, each group will also prepare an electronic version of the atlas. These will contain additional parameters and levels not available in the printed version.


The PO Program continues to fund climate-related research. With the recent emergence of detailed Climate Variability (CLIVAR) implementation plans, the number of CLIVAR and CLIVAR-related proposals has steadily increased, ranging from individual investigator projects to large collaborative field projects. In terms of new activities, three projects resulting from collaboration between NSF and the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) in the UK were funded in early 2003. The first project is a continuation of the Oleander time series between New York and Bermuda under the direction of Tom Rossby and Kathy Donohue at URI to look at long-term variations in the Gulf Stream transport. The second is a project led by John Toole (WHOI) to document temperature, salinity, tracer, and velocity variations of the Deep Western Boundary Current upstream of its Gulf Stream cross-under point by maintaining a moored array over the slope south of Woods Hole, and occupying a hydrographic section along this line semi-annually. This project is integrated with a NERC-funded project led by Chris Hughes (POL) that aims at differentiating between advection and wave propagation of water mass anomalies along the western boundary. The third project led by Bill Johns (RSMAS) and Jochem Marotzke and Harry Bryden (SOC) will make direct estimates of the meridional overturning circulation and the poleward fluxes of water, salt and heat at 24N latitude in the North Atlantic.

Implementation of the Climate Process and Modeling Team concept (CPT) got underway when a joint NSF/NOAA solicitation was issued in February 2003. The response of the community has been very strong and the results of the competition will be announced in the fall of 2003. Over the past year and a half, the U.S. CLIVAR Science Steering Committee (SSC) in coordination with the Interagency Working Group has solicited and reviewed ideas for large scale CLIVAR process studies. The process involved a large fraction of the community represented by the various basin panels and working groups established by the SSC. Based on relevance to CLIVAR objectives, community interest and readiness, the SSC identified three possible studies centered on ocean processes that could be staggered in time. The first one focuses on the role of mean and eddy processes on the formation, storage and dispersal of eighteen degree water south of the Gulf Stream. Another one is a study of diapycnal and isopycnal mixing processes in the Southern Ocean and the last one would examine processes responsible for equatorial upwelling in the Pacific. Other candidate studies were asked to refine their ideas.


After a year and a half with the Physical Oceanography Program, Dr. Theresa Paluszkiewicz has decided to rejoin the Office of Naval Research to take on the challenge of leading a newly expanded Physical Oceanography Team. We wish her all the best in her new duties. Dr. Elise Ralph will complete her rotator’s assignment at the end of the calendar year and return to her faculty position at the University of Minnesota at Duluth where she was recently awarded tenure. Consequently, the Physical Oceanography Program is actively recruiting qualified applicants interested in both a rotator’s position as an IPA and/or a permanent position primarily at the Associate Program Director level. Any interested person should contact Eric Itsweire for more information.

Eric Itsweire (eitsweir@nsf.gov)
Elise Ralph (eralph@nsf.gov)

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