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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Elucidating Multi-Scale Midlatitude Ocean Dynamics Using Satellite Altimetry and Numerical Modeling Data


Bo Qiu - (University of Hawaii at Manoa)

The goals of this proposed research are
  1. to characterize and understand the nature and causes of the large-scale fluctuations in the midlatitude North and South Pacific Oceans on time scales from interannual to decadal and
  2. to clarify the inetractions of oceanic motions of different time scales. An understanding of these topics will lead to increased predictability of the upper ocean circulation and density structures, both of which are important to the climate variability on longer time scales.

This study proposes to conduct careful analyses of the multi-decade altimetry data from all availble existing/future missions. We plan to first document the large-scale SSH fluctuations on the decadal time scales. The observed signals will be compared against other oceanic data (such as sea surface temperature and Argo profiling float data) and the atmospheric variables (e.g., the surface wind and buoyancy forcing) with the guidance of our understanding of the ocean dynamics. Our next step is to clarify the causes for the observed decadal changes. To do so, we propose to use both simplified dynamic models and ocean general circulation model outputs with realistic topography and surface boundary conditions. Through combining the altimetric data and the ocean models with various complexity, we seek to identify the roles played by different physical processes, such as the interior ocean dynamics, the surface wind and buoyancy forcings, and regional nonlinear and instability processes. Particular attention will be directed to clarify how the observed, time-varying, circulation signals of various time and space scales mutually interact.

By combining the data analysis and numerical modeling, this proposed research will directly contribute to the two research themes set out by the joint NASA/CNES Ocean Surface Topography Science Team (OSTST):

  1. To support studies in physical oceanography utilizing Jason-series mission data, as well as the combined 20-year TP/Jason/Jason-2 data, and
  2. To support studies of higher-resolution merged altimetric data sets for the purpose of examining the role of the mesoscale eddies and western boundary currents in the general circulation of the ocean.

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