My primary research interest is studying how small-scale motions impact our climate system by affecting the efficiency with which carbon dioxide can be transferred from the atmosphere into the deep ocean. These motions—called mesoscale and submesoscale motions—are too small to be resolved by current climate models. However, they have been shown to have a disproportionate impact on vertical exchanges of heat, carbon, and nutrients.
Specifically, I study the Southern Ocean, the frigid waters encircling the Antarctic continent. Nearly half of anthropogenically-released carbon enters the deep ocean via the Southern Ocean, due to the strong winds and cold surface temperatures that drive vertical convection. The difficulty of studying this region means that we have a highly incomplete picture of a part of the ocean that has a critical role in modulating global climate.
The two main components of my research thus far are using autonomous in situ observations and modeling the behavior of parcels of water using virtual Lagrangian drifters. Read more below!
During the austral summer 2014–2015 season, I spent two months on the ARSV Laurence M. Gould as part of our Changes in Stratification at the Antarctic Peninsula (ChinStrAP) field campaign. We deployed two autonomous Seagliders, which collected temperature, salinity, and oxygen data over the course of four months. I've used this data to characterize the small-scale motions in the upper ocean around the Antarctic Peninsula and examine how these characteristics change abruptly based on the topography of the seafloor. This manuscript was submitted to JPO in September 2017.
Currently, I am using the data from ChinStrAP2, the follow-up field campaign, which took place in austral winter 2016. I am using this to study temporal variability of subduction at the Polar Front due to enhanced mesoscale eddy activity. I will be presenting this work at Ocean Sciences 2018 in Portland, OR.
The first chapter of my thesis attacks the question "what is the average residence time of a parcel of water in the mixed layer?" When water is in the mixed layer, it can equilibrate with the atmosphere; when a parcel is subducted, it retains these properties. I studied this using virtual Lagrangian drifters, that is, I seeded particles in a global circulation model and advected them forwards in time to see where they would end up. The main result of this work was that waters upwell into the mixed layer in very localized spots within the Southern Ocean; these locations are heavily correlated with abrupt changes in bathymetry. You can read more about this work in my 2016 JGR: Oceans paper.