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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642

URI Oceanographers Awarded $3.7 Million
to Study the Kuroshio Extension

Narragansett, R.I. -- February 14, 2003 --The warm, northward-flowing waters of the Kuroshio western boundary current leave the Japanese coast to flow eastward into the North Pacific as a free jet called the Kuroshio Extension. This extension forms a vigorously meandering boundary between the warm subtropical and cold northern waters of the Pacific. It is also a region where one of the most intense air-sea heat exchanges takes place on the globe, where the warm Kuroshio waters encounter the cold dry air masses coming from the Asian continent.

To study the processes that govern the Kuroshio Extension, URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) physical oceanographers Dr. D. Randolph Watts and Dr. Kathleen Donohue have been awarded $3.7 million over five years by the National Science Foundation as part of the Kuroshio Extension System Study (KESS). Other members of the study team include Dr. Peter Hacker, Dr. Humio Mitsudera, and Dr. Bo Qui of the University of Hawaii, and Dr. Nelson G. Hogg and Dr. Steven Jayne of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Kuroshio plays the same role in the Pacific as the Gulf Stream does in the Atlantic. In recent years, the KESS research team has developed new tools and methods for studying strong current systems. KESS scientists plan to use the latest technology in observational tools, such as inverted echo sounders with pressure and current sensors, moored profilers, profiling floats, and satellite altimetry to complete their study.

The focus of their study will be to observe and characterize the dynamical and thermodynamical processes that control the Kuroshio Extension and its recirculation gyre, the large oval current system to the south of the Extension that interacts with the Kuroshio Extension.

"The Kuroshio Extension is of great importance North America because of its influence upon our climate," said Watts. "Among the diverse fields that will benefit from this work are fisheries and climate research, and understanding storm tracks."

The URI Graduate School of Oceanography is one of the country's largest marine science education programs, and one of the world's foremost marine research institutions. Founded in 1961 in Narragansett, RI, GSO serves a community of scientists who are researching the causes of and solutions to such problems as acid rain, harmful algal blooms, global warming, air and water pollution, oil spills, overfishing, and coastal erosion. GSO is home to the Coastal Institute, the Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, and the National Sea Grant Library.

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