Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI oceanography lecture explains mixing and stirring in the ocean

Media Contact:

Narragansett, R.I. -- April 6, 2004 -- We are all familiar with stirring and mixing in our daily life through the process of adding cream to our coffee. After pouring the cream into our cup, we stir it into the coffee until the cream is irreversibly mixed with the coffee. This mixing by molecular diffusion occurs on the microscale. Similarly, in the ocean, a number of different physical processes, ranging from turbulent eddies generated by breaking internal waves to large (100 km) mesoscale eddies, are responsible for the stirring.

The URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) will host the seventh in a series of Inaugural Lectures scheduled for the 2003-2004 academic year. "Mixing and stirring in the ocean: From the microscale to the mesoscale" will be presented on Thursday, April 15, at 12:30 p.m. by Dr. Dave Hebert, URI physical oceanographer. The lecture will be held in Corless Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett.

Hebertís talk will discuss the physics of these processes and why our understanding their interplay with mixing is critical for increasing our ability to predict the horizontal and vertical distributions of temperature, chlorophyll and other relevant water properties (e.g., anthropogenic pollution) in the ocean. However, even with today's supercomputers, numerical models of the ocean cannot resolve the spatial and temporal scales of these small-scale stirring processes. The goal of this talk is to introduce examples of these different processes and highlight our current understanding of their underlying physics using results from laboratory and field studies.

A resident of South Kingstown, Hebert received a B.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and an M.S. in physics from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. His current research interests involve the study of turbulence and other small-scale mixing processes, such as double-diffusion and intrusions, in the ocean and their influence on the larger-scale ocean dynamics and the ecosystem.

The audience for the Inaugural Lectures is the scientific community and the general public with an interest in and knowledge of science. Although technical in nature, Hebertís talk will not be aimed specifically at physical oceanographers. The purpose of the talks is to inform the scientific community about the nature and significance of research being carried out by GSO scientists.

The lectures are free and open to the public. Subsequent lectures will be held every third Thursday of the month at 12:30 p.m. in Corless Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus. For information, call 874-6246.