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

A new, safer way to monitor the warming oceans


9 Jan 2017

As the Earth warms with climate change, more than 90 percent of that heat is stored in the ocean, so it’s important for scientists to have a way to take the ocean’s internal temperature. Zhongxiang Zhao, an oceanographer at APL-UW, thinks he’s figured out a better way.

A new way to monitor ocean warming without harming whales

KNKX (Radio),

28 Nov 2016

Measuring the surface temperatures of the world’s oceans is done primarily by satellite. The bigger challenge at this point is monitoring changes in their interior.

How to monitor global ocean warming — without harming whales

UW News and Information,

21 Nov 2016

"We want to monitor global ocean warming, not just for tomorrow or next year, but for decades," says Zhongxiang Zhao. "Using internal tidal waves is cheaper and more reliable than any existing method."

Recent Papers

Lien, R.-C., T.B. Sanford, J.A. Carlson, and J.H. Dunlap, "Autonomous microstructure EM-APEX floats," Methods Oceanogr., 17, 282-295, doi:10.1016/j.mio.2016.09.003, 2016.

1 Dec 2016, Link

Xu, Z., K. Liu, B. Yin, Z. Zhao, Y. Wang, and Q. Li, "Long-range propagation and associated variability of internal tides in the South China Sea," J. Geophys. Res., 121, 8268-8286, doi:10.1002/2016JC012105, 2016.

1 Nov 2016, Link

Moum, J.N., K. Pujiana, R.-C. Lien, and W.D. Smyth, "Ocean feedback to pulses of the Madden–Julian Oscillation in the equatorial Indain Ocean," Nat. Comm., 7, 13203, doi:10.1038/ncomms13203, 2016.

19 Oct 2016, Link