An international scientific team, led by Hussein Aluie, an associate professor in the University of Rochester's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and reported their findings in Science Advances, has uncovered the initial direct evidence linking seemingly unpredictable ocean weather systems with global climate patterns. The study challenges prior assumptions, revealing that oceanic weather systems, existing on different timescales and sizes than their land counterparts, significantly impact climate dynamics.
Benjamin Storer, lead author and a research associate in Aluie's Turbulence and Complex Flow Group, notes that while land weather patterns last a few days and cover about 500 kilometers, oceanic weather patterns, such as swirling eddies, endure three to four weeks but are only about one-fifth the size. The challenge in understanding the complex interactions between these oceanic motions and climate scales has been a longstanding issue in climate science.
Aluie explains that their groundbreaking framework, developed to disentangle the intricate system, yielded unexpected results, emphasizing the crucial role of atmospheric mediation. The researchers sought to comprehend how energy transfers across various channels in the ocean globally. Utilizing a mathematical method created by Aluie in 2019, implemented into advanced code by Storer and Aluie, the team explored energy transfer across different patterns, ranging from the circumference of the globe down to 10 kilometers, using ocean datasets from a climate model and satellite observations.
The study unveils that ocean weather systems experience both energization and weakening during interactions with climate scales, following a pattern mirroring global atmospheric circulation. The research also pinpoints a significant energy transfer and the generation of ocean turbulence in the intertropical convergence zone, an atmospheric band near the equator responsible for 30% of global precipitation.
Studying such intricate fluid motion across multiple scales is challenging, yet the team believes their approach offers advantages over previous attempts to link weather and climate change. Aluie notes the significance of their mechanistic analysis, shifting from statistical analysis to understand cause and effect, offering a promising framework for comprehending the climate system. The international team also included researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata, the University of Liverpool, and Princeton University.
Source: University of Rochester