Submesoscale Dynamics

Only recently, it became clear that the entire world’s oceans are significantly influenced by small ocean eddies and fronts. These submesoscale features are only a few hundred meters to a few kilometers in size, but seem to play an important role for phytoplankton production and the transport of energy in the oceans. Due to their small sizes and very short life times of only 6 to 24 hours, only few measurements could be made to date resolving them sufficiently.

To find the eddies in the ocean, the institute of coastal research uses planes and a zeppelin equipped with very sensitive infrared cameras. Speed boats are then used to measure the eddies repeatedly before they decay. In order to carry our measurements in many different water depths simultaneously, a Towed Instrument Chain has been developed covering the upper 50 m of the water column at speeds of up to 5 meters per second.

The department of Submesoscale Dynamics carries out these measurements in combination with other remote and in situ observing techniques. The data provide insight into the physical and biogeochemical dynamics of submesoscale processes in an unprecedented resolution. High-resolution regional ocean models are used for further interpretation of the results.

The department is also contributing to the Coastal Observing System for Northern and Arctic Seas (COSYNA) and is investigating the dynamics of suspended matter in the coastal ocean and the impact of large-scale offshore windfarm construction on the North Sea.