Physics Colloquium, "Waves Affect and Detect Climate"

Presented by: Baylor Fox-Kemper, Brown University

Abstract: Ocean surface gravity waves, the ones familiar to surfers and beachgoers, are mostly generated by winds.  Because they are the most direct way that winds affect the ocean, they both affect the climate system and are used in the detection of climate change.  It is difficult to measure the winds everywhere on earth, but detection of ocean waves from satellites provides a near-global view into their continual change.  Over long distances, changes in the waves accumulate the history of the winds that blow over them, so changes in the waves are both an impact (through coastal inundation) and detector of climate change.  Waves also link closely to ocean turbulence, ocean currents, and sea ice breakup.  Nobelist Irving Langmuir first described a key consequence of ocean turbulence driven by waves--windrows where flotsam such as pollution (oil and plastics), seafoam, and seaweed accumulates.  Accounting for this wave-driven turbulence in climate models has improved our ability to project future global warming, and future improvements in modeling waves' effects on sea ice and currents lay ahead.

Host: Michael Ritzwoller


Wednesday, February 8 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

JILA, Auditorium

Recent Activity