Researchers go ‘outside the box’ to identify major ocean currents – ScienceDaily


For the first time, University of Rochester researchers have quantified the energy of ocean currents over 1,000 km in length. In the process, they and their collaborators discovered that the most active current is the Antarctic Current, which has a diameter of about 9,000 km.

The team, led by Hussein Alawi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, used the same coarse-grained technology his lab had previously developed to document energy transfer at the other end of the scale, during the “vortex killing” that occurs when winds interact with temporary circular water currents less than 260 kilometers in size.

These new results have been reported in Nature CommunicationsIt shows how coarse-graining technology can provide a new window into understanding the oceanic cycle in all its multiscale complexity, says lead author Benjamin Storer, a research associate with Aluie’s Turbulence and Complex Flow Group. This gives researchers an opportunity to better understand how ocean currents act as a major mediator of the Earth’s climate system.

The team also includes researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata, the University of Liverpool and Princeton University.

Traditionally, researchers interested in climate and oceanography have selected boxes in the ocean that range in size from 500 to 1,000 square kilometers. These box regions, which he assumed represented the global ocean, Alloy says, were then analyzed using a technique called Fourier analysis.

“The problem is that when you choose a box, you really limit yourself to analyzing what’s in that box,” Aluie says. “You miss everything on a grander scale.

“What we’re saying is we don’t need a box, we can think outside the box.”

When researchers use coarse-graining technology to “blur” satellite images of global rotation patterns, for example, they find that we “win more by settling on less,” Alloy says. “It allows us to systematically separate structures of different sizes from ocean currents.”

Draws an analogy of removing your glasses, then looks at a very detailed and clear picture. It will seem unclear. But when you look at a succession of increasingly stronger glasses, you will often be able to discover different patterns in each step that would otherwise be hidden in the details.

Essentially, this is what the coarse grains allow researchers to do: identify the different structures in the ocean current and their energy “from the smallest to the largest of scales,” Alloy says.

Aluie credits Storer for continuing to develop and refine the code; It has been published so that other researchers can use it.

Other collaborators include Michele Bozzicotti, a research scientist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Hemant Khatri is a research associate at the University of Liverpool and Stephen Griffis is a senior scientist at Princeton University.

Project support included funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy.

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Materials Introduction of University of Rochester. Original by Bob Marcotte. Note: Content can be modified according to style and length.



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