Investigating Tropical Pacific Water Masses and Pathways in GFDL Ocean Models

Host: Marion Alberty

Ocean currents in the tropical Pacific are responsible for moving heat, freshwater and nutrients into and out of the equatorial region, impacting both tropical climate and biology. While modern ocean models reproduce these important currents, a prior lack of long-term, direct observations has limited the oceanographic communities’ ability to validate the strength and pathways of the computer-simulated tropical Pacific Ocean currents. Recently published observations have, for the first time, quantified the magnitude and distribution of ocean transport over these key pathways and can now be used to investigate the same ocean features in GFDL ocean models.

The goal of this project is to investigate inter-annual and decadal changes in tropical Pacific water masses and their pathways, using observations to validate the results from GFDL ocean models. Over the duration of the project, the potential candidate will work with the project mentors to (a) gain knowledge of the tropical Pacific Ocean and basic time series analysis; (b) develop code that calculates ocean transport from GFDL model output; and (c) produce simple figures (line and contour plots) and statistics (means and standard deviations) that compare modeled ocean transports with observed ocean transport. This project is highly adaptable depending on the potential candidate’s specific skills and interests.

Potential candidates should have an interest in oceanography, physics, and/or math. Experience in computer programming (for example using Python or MATLAB) will be very helpful.