Depiction of processes operating at the air-sea interface and in the upper ocean mixed layer

Enlarge Image

Depiction of processes operating at the air-sea interface and in the upper ocean mixed layer. Many of these processes vary on time scales ranging from seconds to decades and remain poorly understood. (Illustration by Jayne Doucette, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Ocean Atmosphere Exchange

Quantifying the air-sea exchange of energy and mass, especially during high winds, is critical to providing estimates of energy and gas exchange between the surface and deep ocean, and improving the predictive capability of storm forecasting and climate-change models. Conventional technology has provided only limited observations under high wind conditions and few observations at high latitude where exchanges are particularly strong.

Observations supporting the study of chemical and biological change in the ocean are the key to following the global carbon cycle, yet must be augmented by science that cuts across scientific domains.  In particular, understanding the exchange of substances and energy between the ocean and atmosphere requires simultaneous observations and data access across the physical boundaries of sea and air.

Examples of Key Scientific Questions

  • What are the processes that control the exchange of carbon and other dissolved and particulate material across the air-sea interface?
  • What is the seasonal to interannual variability in particulate flux?
  • What is the effect of extreme (high wind and waves) surface forcing on air-sea fluxes of mass and energy?
  • What is the effect of extreme wind on the structure of the ocean surface boundary layer?
  • What are the effects of variable strength storms on nutrient injection into the photic zone?
  • How accurate are existing parameterizations of momentum and heat exchange in very high winds?