The NSU Physical Oceanography (PO) Laboratory conducts long-term observations of the Florida Current and electromagnetic research in the Straits of Florida (Dean et al. 2016). These observations have revealed a remarkable feature of the local ocean circulation - a southward undercurrent jet attached to the Florida shelf (Soloviev et al. 2017a). The undercurrent jet is well mixed due to strong shear at its top associated with the northward direction of the surface flow (Florida Current) and friction at the bottom. During wintertime, the undercurrent transforms into the coastal countercurrent. The southward flow may affect pollution propagation, including potential oil spills that can propagate from the Gulf of Mexico and Cuban waters through the Loop Current. It may help to explain propagation of genetic information in the marine ecosystem along the United States Atlantic coast and the Caribbean. Geological structures in the form of sand ripples indicating currents opposite to the FC direction can be linked to the southward flow. The southward flow is also a part of the life cycle of deep corals.
Hurricane intensity prediction remains a challenge. Hurricanes typically undergo rapid intensification before reaching the status of a major storm. The process of rapid intensification is still a serious challenge for tropical cyclone prediction because the physics of rapid intensification are not yet completely understood. Hurricane researchers have considered particular ambient environmental conditions including the ocean thermal and salinity structure and internal vortex dynamics (e.g., eyewall replacement cycle, hot towers) as factors creating favorable conditions for rapid intensification. PO Lab researchers have linked the processes of rapid storm intensification to physical properties of the air-sea interface and have developed a new theory of rapid hurricane intensification (Soloviev et al. 2017b). This work is expected to improve hurricane forecasting and emergency evacuation plans, including in Florida.
The PO Lab is actively involved in the implementation of a new generation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites in oceanographic research (Sentinel 1A, TerraSAR-X, ALOS PALSAR, RADARSAT-2, COSMO SkyMed), working in close collaboration with the University of Miami RSMAS, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Bedford Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, and Seoul National University (Fujimura et al. 2016).
Recent oil spill disasters have demonstrated the importance of research on oil propagation and dispersion in the oceanic environment. The PO Lab conducts experiments in the Straits of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment using in-situ and satellite observations for the identification and tracking of oil spills. Marine oil spills can have dire consequences for the environment. Research on their dynamics is important for the well-being of coastal communities and their economies. Propagation of oil spills is a very complex physical-chemical process. As seen during the Deepwater Horizon event in the Gulf of Mexico during 2010, one of the critical problems remaining for the prediction of oil transport and dispersion in the marine environment is the small-scale structure and dynamics of surface oil spills. The laboratory experiments conducted by the NSU PO researchers in collaboration with UM RSMAS focused on understanding the differences between the dynamics of crude and weathered oil spills and the effect of dispersants (Soloviev et al. 2016). An advanced multi-phase, volume of fluid computational fluid dynamics model, incorporating capillary forces, was able to explain the main features observed in the laboratory experiment. As a result of the laboratory and modeling experiments, the new interpretation of the effect of dispersant on the oil dispersion process including capillary effects has been proposed, which is expected to lead to improved oil spill models and response strategies.
The PO Lab is involved in marine and environmental engineering (Marine & Environmental Engineering 2017). The goal of geoengineering is to produce substantial societal benefits while minimizing adverse effects. Artificial upwelling using the energy of surface waves can potentially help to mitigate local environmental extremes. The PO Lab is investigating the oceanographic, air-sea interaction, and environmental aspects of artificial upwelling for the sample location on the Israel shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The long-term observations reported by some investigators show a correlation between the heat content in autumn off the coastline of Haifa and precipitation in Jerusalem during wintertime. Artificial upwelling on the Israel shore of the Mediterranean Sea will increase the heat content of the coastal waters during summertime by increasing vertical mixing, which is expected to increase precipitation in the Levant during wintertime and reduce air temperature in the summer. The Lab is implementing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methods to study the dynamics of cold water in the stratified environment with vertical shear. Over the long-term, the artificial upwelling system on the Israel shore of the Mediterranean Sea is expected to advance agriculture in the Levant by increasing rain rates during winter. The system will also produce a mild climate on the Israel coast during summertime, which will establish a healthier environment and aid in the further development of tourism. There are engineering, oceanographic, and environmental issues to be addressed before the system can be implemented. Numerical experiments and field tests are expected to help in the development of a prototype system. Other potential applications of artificial upwelling, in other marine environments around the world, include developing offshore maricultural farming, preserving coral reefs from bleaching, and mitigating hurricane impacts in Florida.