Data Provider Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Upper Ocean Dynamics Lab

Posted: July 26, 2023
Category: Data Provider Spotlight , Featured News

The sea surface is a critical link that couples oceanic and atmospheric processes for both weather and climate events. The University of Miami’s Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory has been developing a suite of daily ocean heat content (OHC) products based on satellite-derived Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and Sea Surface Height Anomaly (SSHA) measurements since 1998. These data, used by forecasters and modelers, help reduce forecast intensity errors by as much as 22 percent.

Studies have shown that understanding sources and sinks of OHC (relative to thef 26 C isotherm) in front of hurricanes is important to intensity forecasting. This daily product suite resolves the Loop Current (LC) complex that includes both warm and cold core eddies and is central to understanding physical processes and the linkage to the Intra-Americas Seas (IAS) and fisheries oceanography.

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Sources of high OHC also have provided additional thermal energy to hurricanes observed over the past two decades during intensification — examples include Lili, Katrina, Rita, Ivan, Ike, Laura, Ida, Michael and Ian. In regimes associated with the LC complex, the depth of the 26 C isotherm tends to be three-to-four times deeper compared to the background Gulf common water. Mixing and cooling tend to be minimized and, instead, the ocean is providing more heat.

Based on this rationale, it’s important to deploy ocean sensor packages capable of measuring levels of ocean mixing induced by currents and their shear.

In support of the Gulf of Mexico Marine Research Initiative (GoMRI), Teledynne-Webb developed a float and the Ocean Dynamics Lab added a APEX-ElectroMagnetic (EM) platform that is capable of measuring both physical and biophysical structure simultaneously. EM sensors allow measurement of ocean current as deep as 2000 m. The Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory combines these physical profile data directly to the SSHA and SST variability. The synergism of the various sensing devices allows even higher-resolution OHC variations for use in basic and applied research as well as operational forecasting for weather and climate events.

Dr. Lynn. K. (Nick) Shay is a GCOOS Board Member and Associate Dean and Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM-RSMAS) and directs the Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory

Dr. Benjamin Jaimes de la Cruz, is an Associate Scientist in the Department of Ocean Sciences, UM-RSMAS

This data visualization shows the APEX-EM float and measurements of currents and vertical shear during the rapid intensification of Hurricane Michael in 2018. Video provided by the Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory for the Gulf of Mexico at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science.

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