Here we sample work that focuses on mesoscale eddy mechanics and sea level variations + change.

Eddy Mechanics

Most of the ocean kinetic energy occurs within transient mesoscale eddies, with lateral scales extending from tens of kilometers in the high latitudes to hundreds of kilometers near the equator. This animation, generated from the GFDL CM2.6 coupled climate model, provides a compelling view on mesoscale eddies in action. These eddies have a significant impact on the transport of momentum, vorticity, heat, freshwater, carbon, nutrients, and biota throughout the oceans.


DIC and mesoscale eddies in CM2.6 near South Africa from Dufour et al (2015). This image shows the multi-scale features arising from the mesoscale eddy field. The black line represents a front, with the eddy-induced transport of tracer across the front a question addressed in the paper. Click here for more on Southern Ocean research.


Studies of ocean mesoscale eddy mechanics requires a rigorous understanding of geophysical fluid mechanics along with strong skills in mathematics, physics, and computational analysis. Many of the cutting edge research questions sit at the interface between the mesoscale and the smaller sub-mesoscales and even touch into the gravity wave scales. These questions relate to how fundamental processes operate in the ocean (and atmosphere), and impact how we understand and simulate the ocean and its role within the climate system.

Here are a few of the questions that interest me concerning eddy mechanics.

  • How do mesoscale eddies interact with topography? With the submesoscale? With gravity waves?
  • How much diapycnal mixing is associated with mesoscale eddies?
  • How much material transport is associated with coherent mesoscale eddies? Is that transport robust in the presence of submesoscale processes and gravity waves?
  • How do mesoscale eddies vertically transport heat, carbon, and other tracers, and what model resolution is required to accurately represent this transport?
  • How do we accurately parameterize transport from mesoscale eddies for use in climate model simulations? Is an energetic framework effective for formulating closures?

Sea Level

Global mean sea level has been rising since the early 20th century due to global climate change, and will continue to rise for decades to centuries. There are significant socio-economic impacts from sea level rise on populations and environments in coastal areas and islands. Furthermore, many of the displaced populations stress regions away from the coast. Sea level change is thus one of the most consequential effects of anthropogenic climate change for the 21st century and beyond.


Schematic from the IPCC AR5 report illustrating some of the processes that impact sea level, including boundary forcing, ocean currents, melting land ice, the hydrological cycle, and ground water storage.


Global sea level rise will be realized by no single location, with diverse regional patterns affected by a suite of geophysical, oceanographic, and anthropogenic mechanisms. There are many basic and applied questions to be addressed in the study of sea level, with research benefiting from a sound understanding of geophysical fluid mechanics, geophysics (e.g., geodesy), and coastal oceanography.

Here are a few of the questions that interest me concerning sea level variations and change.

  • Will extreme sea level events occur more frequently in the future under a changing climate?
  • What are the mechanisms for regional sea level change, in particular those affecting coastal regions?
  • How does sea level along the coasts reflect sea level within the ocean interior?
  • How will changes to the gravity field, arising from changes in ice sheet masses, impact on the ocean circulation?
  • How accurate can we predict changes to coastal sea level?