Oceanography

Oceanography in the Department includes ocean circulation and dynamics, air-sea interaction, chemical tracers and cycles, interactions with marine life, and the sedimentary record of past oceans and climates at timescales ranging from years to millions of years. An overarching goal is the study of the ocean's role in the global climate and marine ecosystems. Research programs involve observational, model, and theory components, and is highly interdisciplinary. The faculty have active programs across the globe, from tropical to polar environments, and coastal zones. Research includes study of the dynamics of sea ice, tropical ocean variability, El Niño and other climate oscillations, and ocean/glacial ice interaction. Chemical oceanography faculty examine the marine biogeochemical cycles of major and minor elements, including carbon and anthropogenic compounds in all their forms. They use both observational (measuring geochemical tracers at sea) and modeling approaches to understand ocean circulation, with a specific focus on the ocean's role in the carbon cycle, both today and in the past, and especially its contribution to absorbing anthropogenic carbon dioxide. Biological oceanography faculty study the intereactions of marine organisms with one another and with their physical and chemical environment to understand the their role of ocean biota in the global carbon cycle. Paleoceanography faculty reconstruct changes in surface and deep ocean circulation, changes in ocean productivity and chemistry, and changes in terrestrial environments. An important component of this research involves developing spatial and temporal records of climate change based on biological, chemical, mineralogical, and isotopic measurements on deep sea sediment samples and corals. Strong connections are maintained with the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.