OPD Research Areas


Mixing sets the temperature and salinity structure of the ocean and the distribution of chemical species…


Circulation, from small estuaries to entire ocean basins, is critical in a variety of processes…


Mixing and circulation help regulate ocean productivity and ecosystems…


Technology plays a critical role in oceanographic research…

Instruments & Sensors

See what we design, build and use in our research…

Educational Opportunities

Graduate students in the Ocean Physics Department take their coursework through an academic department at the UW, while pursuing research projects with a faculty advisor in OPD. Students are offered the opportunity to experience the entire life cycle of sea-going research projects, including experiment planning, participation in research cruises, data processing, scientific analysis and the presentation of results at national and international meetings.  More >>
Current Students >>

What We Do

OPD investigators pursue research focused primarily on small-scale and meso-scale oceanographic processes, design and build unique instruments to facilitate these studies, and educate undergraduate and graduate students through instruction and employment.

Basic and Applied Research Push Seaglider's Capabilities

Seaglider offers depth, versatility, and persistence at an operating cost far less than an ocean research vessel. People should like them because they're really cool, but they do like them because they're comparatively inexpensive. In May 2013, UW's Center for Commercialization licensed the manufacture of Seagliders to Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc., granting them sole rights to produce, market, and continue the development of Seaglider technology.  More >>

Marginal Ice Zone Program

An integrated program of observations and numerical simulations will focus on understanding ice–ocean–atmosphere dynamics in and around the MIZ, with particular emphasis on quantifying changes associated with decreasing ice cover. The MIZ measurement program will employ a novel mix of autonomous technologies (ice-based instrumentation, floats, drifters, and gliders) to characterize the processes that govern Beaufort Sea MIZ evolution from initial breakup and MIZ formation though the course of the summertime sea ice retreat.  More >>

Deep-Sea Rescue of Valuable Research Instruments

The subsurface mooring component of the Northwest Enhanced Moored Observatory (NEMO) had to be rescued by a ROV piloted by APL-UW engineers. Extensive crevice corrosion from a longer-than-expected deployment was behind the acoustic release failures. More >>

In the News

Buoy deployed in Bellingham Bay to chart health of Puget Sound

KING 5 News,

11 Feb 2016

Oceanographers deployed a buoy in Bellingham Bay on Thursday that will chart the health of Puget Sound. It joins a half-dozen other buoys, but this is the only one in the north Puget Sound. It is equipped with several pieces of advanced technology that will monitor everything from salinity, temperature and weather changes.

Voyage traces stirred-up Arctic heat


28 Sep 2015

Using a gadget developed by UW's Applied Physics Laboratory, oceanographers have gathered evidence that turbulence in the Arctic Ocean is stirring up heat from the depths.

Arctic research ship probes frigid depths and 4th-lowest sea ice extent on record


17 Sep 2015

One of the mysteries of the sea ice loss of the past few decades, particularly this year, is how the heat distribution is changing in various regions of the Arctic. Right now, the National Science Foundation's R/V Sikuliaq is sailing in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, to investigate the distribution of heat throughout the water column, as well as how layers of water are interacting with one another.

Recent Papers

Zhao, Z., M.H. Alford, J.B. Girton, L. Rainville, and H.L. Simmons, "Global observations of open-ocean mode-1 M2 internal tides," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 46, 1657-1684, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-15-0105.1, 2016.

1 Jun 2016, Link

Park, J.-W., H.-C. Kim, S.-H. Hong, S.-Ho. Dang, H.C. Graber, B. Hwang, and C.M. Lee, "Radar backscattering changes in Arctic sea ice from late summer to early autumn observed by space-borne X-band HH-polarization SAR," Remote Sens. Lett., 7, 551-560, doi:10.1080/2150704X.2016.1165881, 2016.

1 Jun 2016, Link

Buijsman, M.C., et al., including Z. Zhao, "Impact of parameterized internal wave drag on the semidiurnal energy balance in a global ocean circulation model," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 46, 399-419, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-15-0074.1, 2016.

1 May 2016, Link