The Air-Sea Interface

The roughness of the sea surface strongly influences air-sea exchange processes. At low to moderate wind speeds, naturally- occurring surface films damp small-scale waves and turbulence that promote transfer of heat and gases.

The Air-Sea Interface

The boundary between atmosphere and ocean is a region of intense interest to marine scientists studying processes of heat, mass and momentum transfer and their impact on such important topics as upper ocean mixing and circulation, weather and climate.

My own research interests center on the chemistry and physics of the sea surface microlayer, roughly defined as the top millimeter of the ocean surface. This is a regime differentiated from the underlying water by its chemical composition, biota, and physico-chemical properties. Surface-active organic compounds accumulate at the air-sea interface and influence the small-scale wave field and near-surface turbulence. Processes such as heat and gas transfer, which are strongly dependent on generation of turbulence by wind stress and wave breaking mechanisms, are modulated by these natural surfactant films.

Much of my recent research has involved understanding the relationship between sea surface roughness and gas transfer rates. Since surface roughness can be measured by microwave devices on satellites, I am also interested in developing remote sensing algorithms to determine regional and global gas transfer velocity fields using radar backscatter from altimeters and scatterometers.