Physical Oceanography

Research the dynamics of the oceans, their physical properties, and how water moves within them.


  • chlorophyll a on the U.S. East Coast Remote Sensing - At GSO, archives of satellite sensor data recording sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll-a dating back to the first collections provide researchers interested in all aspects of circulation in the surface ocean with data to study phenomena such as latitudinal heat advection, ocean current speed and directions, surface ocean eddies, and climate change. Using a […]
  • Passive sampler Oceanographic Analysis, Assays, and Techniques - GSO seismologists advanced the science of detecting and analyzing pressure waves caused by earthquakes, landslides, and nuclear explosions through development of a novel modeling approach called full-wave seismic analysis. This method extracts much more information from these phenomena than captured by older, standard ray-tracing methods. GSO’s high-powered computer clusters allow detection of small seismic events […]
  • Climate Change - The effects of climate change now and in the future is the subject of several physical oceanography studies at GSO. By documenting temporal variations of ocean fronts (observed gradients in sea surface temperatures using satellite sensors) and the large-scale current velocities (Gulf Stream speed using current profilers), GSO scientists are able to observe any change […]
  • Hurricane Rita spins in the Gulf of Mexico on September 22, 2005 Hurricanes and Tsunamis - Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) routinely invading our shores are of great concern to residents who live in coastal regions. Mathematical models incorporating ocean data along with atmospheric data developed by GSO scientists improve the reliability and accuracy of the hurricane prediction models used by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and the Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. These […]
  • The siting of wind turbines relies heavily on overall weather trends in any particular onshore or offshore area. Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions - The atmosphere is primarily comprised of nitrogen and oxygen. Understanding the remaining compounds and gasses, including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, is critical for addressing air quality concerns. GSO atmospheric chemists utilize airplane-based sensors to measure these minor components as key inputs to transport models defining the residence time (length of time […]
  • An eddy in the SSTs can be seen south on the northern fringe of the Gulf Stream. Ocean Currents - Fronts visible on the ocean’s surface exhibit a strong gradient in sea surface temperature (SST), visible in satellite SST data and chlorophyll-a distribution, allow scientists to study their effects on the global ocean. As a result, large currents such as the Gulf Stream are well characterized and imaged for a better understanding of north-south global […]
  • Photo micrograph of a Chaetoceros species from Narragansett Bay. Photo Lucie Maranda. Microbial and Planktonic Diversity - GSO scientists characterize the genetic diversity and distribution of planktonic populations globally over time, space, and in different marine ecosystems. This provides an understanding of basic processes of speciation, selection, and adaption, and how plankton respond to their environments. Examining physical influences on phytoplankton form and function shows how small-scale turbulence affects cell and colony […]
  • A NOAA wave amplitude image captures the “meteotsunami” that affected the East Coast in 2013 From Data Collection to Modeling - Modeling of fish populations and their trophic interactions is an essential element for defining targets for sustainable fisheries, and estimating benefits of rebuilding stocks. The effects of seasonal migrations of interacting fish species and population feeding habits are modeled by GSO fisheries biologists to better explore the consequences of different harvest strategies and changes in […]