Fiammetta Straneo


Research Interests:

My research is mainly aimed at the high latitude oceans and, in particular, at their role in climate and climate variability.

1. Water Mass Transformation and the Overturning Circulation

Warm, salty waters of subtropical origin flowing towards the high latitudes are progressively cooled and transformed into the intermediate and dense waters, which fill the bulk of the world ocean. Through this transformation, the high latitudes contribute to driving the oceans' circulation and their poleward heat transport. Variations in the formation processes have been linked to both past and modern climate variability as well as to model predictions of future climate. My research has ranged from investigating the details of the transformation process itself, to the connection between the amount of dense water formed, the poleward heat transport and the sinking (or overturning) that is often associated with these regions. I have primarily focused on the dense waters formed in the North Atlantic's Labrador Sea and Nordic Seas and have integrated both data analysis, simpled models as well as numerical simulations.

2. Export of Fresh Water from the Arctic region to the North Atlantic

As part of our climate system, the large amount of fresh water delivered to the Arctic region by rivers and excess precipitation is transported out of the Arctic by the ocean circulation. Variations in this pattern of convergence/divergence have the potential to induce large changes in ocean circulation and climate due to the strongly stabilizing impact of fresh water on the ocean's stratification. Therefore, it is important to map and monitor the fresh water pathways between the Arctic and Subarctic region and understand what physical mechanisms control their variability. As a part of this effort, I have been measuring the freshwater flow into the Labrador Sea through Hudson Strait. Hudson Strait is also the main opening for the Hudson Bay System: a large, inland Arctic sea whose ecosystem and human settlements have been indicated as extremely vulnerable to climate change.

3. Ice-Sheet Ocean Interactions around Greenland

The Greenland Ice Sheet's contribution to sea-level rise has doubled over the last decade due to increased melting and, to a greater extent, to the widespread acceleration of outlet glaciers around Greenland. One of the mechanisms we believe may have triggered this acceleration are changes in ocean circulation in the North Atlantic which are delivering larger amounts of subtropical waters to the high latitudes. If these waters reach the glaciers, they will drive increased submarine melting and change the force balance at the edge of the glacier – resulting in glacier acceleration. To test this hypothesis I have been collecting data at the edge of several outlet glaciers in East Greenland. My goal is to map the water property distribution and, more importantly, understand the processes which control the heat transport (and submarine melting) to the edge of Greenland's glaciers.

See the Projects section for a more in depth discussion of the recent and current projects.

Contact Information:

Clark 355A
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution MS#21
Woods Hole, MA 02543
Tel: (508) 289-2914
Fax: (508) 457-2181

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