Many of the key variables of interest to physical oceanographic research can now be observed accurately from space. Following decades of planning and development, a number of U.S. and international satellite-borne ocean observing instruments have been launched in recent years. Using radiometric and radar remote sensing techniques, these instruments are providing measurements of sea surface height, surface ocean currents, surface wind velocity, wave height, atmospheric precipitable water, sea surface temperature and ocean chlorophyll concentration with unprecendented accuracy, resolution, and spatial and temporal coverage.
In 2003, after a competitive selection process, the Cooperative Institute for Oceanographic Satellite Studies (CIOSS) was established at CEOAS (then COAS) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Oregon State University as a cooperative center of excellence for research involving satellite remote sensing of the ocean and the air-sea interface. The College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (now CEOAS) at OSU has had a strong program in satellite remote sensing since the early 1980s. College faculty members are actively involved in all aspects of ocean remote sensing, including instrument design, algorithm development, post-launch validation of satellite measurements, and application of satellite data to the investigation of oceanographic and air-sea interaction phenomena on a wide range of time and space scales.
In studies spanning a variety of locations and processes, OSU oceanographers are using remotely sensed data to characterize the atmospheric forcing and the ocean's dynamic and thermodynamic response. High resolution satellite measurements of sea-surface temperature and surface currents have been used to revolutionize our understanding of coastal ocean circulation. These analyses continue to motivate field programs to observe subsurface coastal currents and their relationship to ocean biology and chemistry.
Radar altimeter measurements of sea-surface height are also being analyzed at OSU to examine small-and large-scale near-surface ocean currents, changes in upper ocean heat content, and global sea level rise. Near-surface wind speeds and directions measured by satellite-borne radar scatterometers are being analyzed at OSU to provide essential insight into atmospheric forcing of upper ocean processes and climatically important air-sea interactions on many scales. OSU oceanographers are also at the forefront in developing numerical models and techniques for assimilating remotely sensed data to allow investigation and prediction of coastal ocean processes, equatorial dynamics and the El Nino phenomenon, the ocean's role in seasonal to interannual climate variations, and physical-biological interactions in the upper ocean.
Examples of faculty research projects include: