FACE Eddy and Internal Wave Studies
The AOML Florida Area Coastal Environment (FACE) project is collaborating with CHAMP to undertake ship- and mooring-based studies of the physical oceanography and biogeochemistry of cyclonic vortices (mesoscale eddies and smaller features) interacting with the outer edge of the Florida Reef Tract. These vortices can be frequently observed in high-resolution (pixel size 4km or smaller) satellite imagery of the Straits of Florida. The role of vortices and sub-surface waves in modifying the thermal and chemical environment of the Straits of Florida and the reef tract has been the focus of multiple studies spanning the past four decades. Current FACE/CHAMP joint research centers on the interaction between smaller-scale vortices and the field of internal (sub-surface, inter-layer, supra- and near-inertial) ocean waves in the vicinity of the Tract's steeply sloping shelf and reef topography. Preliminary results from these studies, to be published in an upcoming manuscript, suggest that when larger (mesoscale) eddies interact with the continental shelf, they may actually cause a propagating feature of thermocline uplift and upwelling of cooler water and nutrients onto the reef. This appears to be an effect that may change the reef environment potentially hundreds of kilometers "downstream" of where the larger-scale eddy actually resides. The physical mechanisms underlying this effect are an active area of research within the CHAMP project currently.