Book Review by Professor Amy Clement

Amy Clement 1UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement provided the following review of the book “Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options” by Hine, Chambers, Clayton, Hafen, and Mitchum.

It’s a bright day with not a cloud in sight, yet people in Miami Beach are wading across streets through knee-deep water: seawater, that is. This scene has become increasingly commonplace in the lowest lying parts of South Florida, often referred to as sunny day or nuisance flooding. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that something is wrong with this picture. But if you want to look at the problem through the lens of a scientist, the picture comes into awesome relief. That is what ‘Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options’ offers it’s readers. The authors are experts in wide ranging fields, and take readers on a tour of South Florida that begins millions of years ago when Florida was the bottom of a vast ocean that covered what is now most of the continental United States. This aspect of natural history is not just a geological wonder; it is critical to understanding the problem we Floridians face today. We have built a dense urban area and a vast agriculture industry on this porous, limestone rock that barely ekes its way above sea level, vulnerable to the encroaching water from all sides, and from beneath our feet. A chapter on the ecosystem impacts of sea level rise provides lessons about the unique ecology of Florida, which alone is worth the read. Perhaps the most poignant pictures in this well-illustrated book are the elevation maps of the state, highlighting how the southern part of the state is within several feet of sea level, with these low lying areas overlapping the past, present, and projected future development areas. The book’s fourth and final chapter gives some ideas for solutions, though there is clearly no ‘silver bullet.’ It is important for citizens of our state to be aware of efforts to both reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are at the root cause of the problem and to engineer solutions that may allow us to adapt to the inevitable impacts. This book is an efficient way for Floridians to quickly come up to speed on the basics of a grand, global problem that has very local implications for current residents of our State and for future generations.

Amy Clement is a professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Undergraduate Students Assist Finnish Research Vessel in Baltic

Early this month, two RSMAS undergraduates joined Dr. Will Drennan on the Finnish research vessel Aranda. The group spent two weeks in the Baltic Sea assisting Finnish Meteorological Institute as part of an effort to understand (and better quantify) the carbon budget in coastal seas. The students had their travel expenses covered by the RSMAS SURGE (Small Undergraduate Research Grant Experience) awards, which are sponsored by donor’s contributions. Undergraduate student Adena Schonfeld wrote about her experience.

My experience on the R/V Aranda got off to a bit of a rocky start, literally. As soon as we left port we hit a storm, resulting in 3 meter (about 10 foot) waves, which tossed the boat around, tossing me around as I tried to walk, eventually causing me to toss my lunch. I soon realized that the only time I didn’t feel sick was while lying down, so I slept on and off for about 24 hours, until I woke up and suddenly realized that the ship was no longer jolting, just gently swaying. I discovered I could stand up and walk around, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Surveying the seas from the bridge

Surveying the seas from the bridge

The main purpose of the cruise was to further the understanding of the causes of carbon exchange in shallow seas and estuaries. This required a multitude of measurements to be taken at various locations in the Baltic Sea and at a variety of depths. Very often a profile was created using a CTD which tracks fluorescence levels, oxygen, salinity, density and temperature. A carbon dioxide sensor continuously sat in a tank and had surface water pumped in as the ship moved to take measurements of the water, and full carbon profiles all the way down were created by lowering the sensor into the water using a winch. When the depth exceeded the length of the sensor cable, a canister was used to collect samples of water at depth and was brought back and dumped into a tank containing the sensor. In addition to all of these measurements, meteorological conditions were continually measured, including humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide content and wind. Wave sensors were also placed into the water at various points. All of this may not sound like the most exciting content, and unworthy of a Discovery Channel reality show, but the cruise was still incredibly interesting and enlightening. I learned a lot about carbon dioxide, waves, equipment, and testing procedures. I picked up on nuances of Finnish culture, for example at every meal they eat absolutely everything they pile on their plates and scrape all the sauces together to really clean it off. I also learned that research cruises involve a lot of waiting: waiting to arrive at the next destination; waiting for one set of equipment to finish tests to deploy the next set of equipment; waiting for carbon dioxide levels to even out to move onto the next depth; waiting for a translation from Finnish to English.

The Team: Comprised of researchers from  the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Rosenstiel School for Marine & Atmospheric Science

The Team: Comprised of researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

All of this waiting is part of the experience and beauty of a research cruise; it gives all the scientists, researchers, and crew a chance to interact and mingle. The people that are attracted to life on the sea are an interesting set, and everyone has really unique stories. I heard stories about life at a Finnish university, past research cruises, and weddings abroad. I learned all about Finnish history and politics. Despite all of the waiting, a lot of work is accomplished, and tests often go all night. There were many nights that I saw both the sunset and sunrise.

I was expecting the research cruise to be an amazing experience, and my expectations were far exceeded. It’s difficult to adequately put into words what the cruise is truly like. A routine is developed and set up and deconstruction of equipment becomes quick and easy, and done right the first time. There’s a lot of camaraderie and teamwork between everyone on board. There is no other comparable feeling to standing on a deck in the sun and looking out and seeing nothing but sky and water; it’s easy to understand why people originally thought the world was flat. Now that my two weeks on the ship are over, I’m left wishing for the gentle rock of the boat to lull me to sleep.

–Adena Schonfeld

postscript: I’d like to thank Dr. Drennan for presenting me with this opportunity, the Finnish Meteorological Institute for allowing me to participate in their research cruise, and the Rosenstiel School for awarding me the Small Undergraduate Research Grant Experience (SURGE grant)

Adena Schonfeld is an undergraduate student at the Rosenstiel School for Marine & Atmospheric Science.


UM professor co-authors influential climate change paper

Professor Brian Soden

Professor Brian Soden

Professor Brian Soden’s 2006 paper is “one of most influential climate change papers of all time.

The Carbon Brief recently asked climate experts what they think are the most influential papers. In joint second place was a paper by Isaac Held (NOAA) and UM Rosenstiel School’s Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Brian Soden published in the Journal of Climate in 2006.

The paper, “Robust Responses of the Hydrological Cycle to Global Warming,” identified how rainfall from one place to another would be affected by climate change. Prof Sherwood, who nominated this paper, tells Carbon Brief why it represented an important step forward. He says:

“[This paper] advanced what is known as the “wet-get-wetter, dry-get-drier” paradigm for precipitation in global warming. This mantra has been widely misunderstood and misapplied, but was the first and perhaps still the only systematic conclusion about regional precipitation and global warming based on robust physical understanding of the atmosphere.”

The Carbon Brief reports on the latest developments and media coverage of climate science and energy policy, with a particular focus on the UK. They produce news coverage, analysis and factchecks. Read more

Award-Winning Faculty! German Cross of Merit and more…

Professor Graber receives the German Cross of Merit

Hans GraberHans C. Graber, UM Rosenstiel School professor of ocean sciences and director of the Center for Southeastern Tropical Remote Sensing (CSTARS), was awarded the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit, or Bundesverdienstkreuz, by the German government, the highest civilian award given by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Consul General Juergen Borsch presented the Federal Cross of Merit to Graber at an event on March 20 in Miami.

The order was established in 1951 to provide awards “for achievements that served the rebuilding of the country in the fields of political, socio-economic and intellectual activity, and is intended to mean an award of all those whose work contributes to the peaceful rise of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Graber’s research focuses on radar remote sensing of hurricanes and typhoons, understanding air-sea interactions and the generation of ocean waves and storm surge.

Notable recipients of the Bundesverdienstkreuz include, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Sofía of Spain.


Professor Amy Clement Receives Mentor Award

Amy ClementAmy Clement, associate dean and professor of atmospheric sciences is the second recipient of the UM Rosenstiel School Outstanding Mentor Award. Clement was presented the award by the Graduate Academic Committee at a ceremony on May 20 at the School. At the award ceremony she gave a talk titled, “A discussion on mentoring and being mentored.”

The award was designed to recognize an exceptional faculty mentor and based upon the recommendation of a committee of Rosenstiel School students, post-doctorate researchers and faculty.

Clement leads a climate modeling research group at the UM Rosenstiel School, which aims to better understand various aspects of Earth’s climate, from Saharan dust and clouds to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is the largest mode of variability in the modern climate. Clement’s research focus is on fundamental aspects of the climate system, including understanding why the climate changed in the past, and predicting how it will change in the future.

Marine Chemistry Pioneer Frank Millero Retires

Dr. Frank MilleroAfter 49 years world-renowned Marine Chemist Frank Millero is retiring as a full professor of ocean sciences from the UM Rosenstiel School. Millero will join the ranks as a professor emeritus while still maintaining his active ocean science research laboratory on campus.

During his academic tenure Millero was instrumental in helping shape current scientific knowledge on the chemistry of seawater, a fundamental component to understand the ocean’s role in global climate change. He has published over 500 works, including one of the premier textbooks on ocean chemistry, and developed the fundamental equation of state of seawater still in use today.

Millero and his research team have traveled the world ocean’s collecting data on carbon dioxide levels at different ocean depths as part of a large, collaborate National Science Foundation-funded project. The 20-year study is helping to understand the environmental effects of the 40 percent of human-generated CO2 that enter the world’s ocean. The next cruise is scheduled for August 2015.

Beyond his scientific accolades, Millero’s devotion to teaching the next generation of scientists and generous philanthropic contributions to the UM Rosenstiel School, athletics, and arts have helped advance the University in many ways.

Millero grew up in Ohio and earned his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University and a doctorate in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he tended bar for spending money and met his wife, Judith. They have three children: Marta Millero-Quincoses, B.B.A. ’95, a South Florida accountant; Frank III, who teaches at Pratt Institute in New York; and Anthony, who works in merchandising in New York.

We are happy that Frank’s good works and good humor will still be on campus for several more years!

Miami Missions

The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) is situated on an island just offshore of Miami, linked to the mainland by a causeway. It has exquisite views over the ocean, and its own private beach.


UM Rosenstiel Campus

Surprisingly though, this was not my motivation to visit the school, and I didn’t know how stunning the campus was until I arrived there. Professor Lisa Beal in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the Rosenstiel School was the main attraction, as she is possibly one of the most knowledgeable people on the Agulhas Current, which happens to be the focus of my Ph.D. I am a Professional Development Programme* (PDP) student with SAEON’s Egagasini Node working as part of the ASCA team.  My study is co-supervised by Prof. Beal, who led the Agulhas Current Time-series experiment (ACT, which has now been extended into the ASCA array).

Lisa Beal, Ph.D.

In this ground-breaking study, seven full-depth current meter moorings along with four current pressure inverted echo sounders were placed across the current to follow the trajectory of the descending TOPEX/Jason ground track that leaves the South African coast line at 33.4°S and stretches out to sea approximately perpendicular to the continental slope. The mooring data spans the period 2010-2013, thereby providing 34 months of velocity and transport measurements at an unprecedented resolution.

Valuable dataset

This data is extraordinarily valuable as it can provide insight into the variability of a current which is thought to play a vital role in the meridional overturning circulation, a system of surface and deep currents encompassing all ocean basins. It transports large amounts of water, heat, salt, carbon, nutrients and other substances around the globe, and connects the surface, ocean and atmosphere with the huge reservoir of the deep sea.

IMG_9281 By coupling the mooring data with the overlaid satellite altimetry measurements, Prof. Beal’s team at RSMAS were able to extend the transport data back in time using a proxy, thereby producing 20 years of transport estimates for the Agulhas current from 1993-2013. This dataset will be the foundation of my thesis and was the motivation to work at RSMAS for the very first two months of my Ph.D.

Initially I was apprehensive about spending an extended period of time in Miami as my impression was that the city was all about glitz, glam and superficiality. Never before have I been proven so wrong! The people I met and the places I visited were truly impressive, from the natural beauty of the Everglades and Florida Keys to the mind-blowing creativity of the hipster art district, Wynwood. The impressive sights were complemented by the delicious Cuban food and Latino flair.

A meeting of bright scientific minds

However, my favourite part of the trip was, surprisingly, not the sightseeing and the tasty food, but the Wednesday morning group meetings with Prof. Beal’s research team. This group of extraordinarily bright minds meets once a week to discuss a paper, present their latest research results, or simply brainstorm ideas or challenges for the road ahead.

Being given the opportunity to participate and absorb the ideas flying around the room once a week was an incredible opportunity and education. I have come to realise that being a scientist is not something you can learn by just reading academic journals or processing data, but is better achieved by exercising your curiosity and approaching all scientific statements and findings with a critical mind. “How did they get this result? What processing was undertaken? Why is this different to previous literature? How do we replicate the methodology?” From data analysis techniques, the formation of robust scientific key questions, and the art of finding a signal amidst all the noise, I received a whirlwind education on how to be a scientist.

Research topic

During my time at RSMAS I came up with a very exciting topic for my Ph.D. – how local and remote winds affect Agulhas Current Transport variability.

Figure 1 shows the mean wind speeds for the Indian Ocean from 1993 to 2015 and the position of the ACT /ASCA mooring array. As can be seen from the image, there are two patches of very high wind speeds, one centred around 15S known as the Trade winds, and another south of 50S called the Westerlies. These two maximums in wind speed, and thus wind stress, create a positive wind stress curl between them which, in turn, creates a net northward transport across the basin. This is known as the Sverdrup transport as it is the ocean current pattern produced by the wind induced (Ekman) movement of water.

This northward transport must be balanced by a flow out of the basin – a task that is largely undertaken by the Agulhas Current. The Agulhas is the western boundary flow of the South Indian subtropical gyre and dominates what may be the highest meridional heat flux in the world’s oceans. The leakage of waters from the Agulhas into the South Atlantic is a critical link in the global thermohaline circulation, feeding warm and salty waters into the upper limb of the global overturning circulation, and therefore playing a vital role in the climate system.

Mean winds zone

Figure 1: Mean wind speed (m/s) from 1993-2015 over the Indian Ocean with vectors showing direction overlaid. The position of the ACT/ASCA mooring array off the east coast of South Africa is shown in black.

Regionally, the Agulhas Current exerts a strong control on rainfall and climate over South Africa, acting as a major source of latent heat for onshore wind systems. Furthermore, the current is also of fishing (and thus economic) importance to South Africa, as upwelling and high levels of productivity are induced when it separates from the shelf during a periodic meander event.

Wind-driven dynamics have been shown to have a critical influence on the variability of western boundary currents elsewhere, but this relationship has yet to be addressed in the Agulhas Current. Decadal trends of surface wind stress have indicated an increase in both the Trade and Westerly winds over the Indian Ocean basin.

A variation in the winds across the Indian Ocean basin would result in a modification in the flow of the Agulhas. An alteration in strength of the Agulhas would have a variety of implications, ranging from local effects on the climate of the east coast of South Africa, an adjustment of upwelling affecting fisheries, and on a global scale, an alteration of the volume flux of warm salty water from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean.

My Ph.D. will endeavour to gain insight into this and shed some light into what has been happening with winds and western boundary current responses in the Indian Ocean over the past 20 years. My two-month trip in Miami was the perfect kick start to my Ph.D. I return home to Cape Town with a topic that I am very passionate about and a strong drive to understand and learn more. Even though it was a reasonably short period of time, it was jam-packed with experiences and lessons.

* The Professional Development Programme of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation aims to accelerate the development of scientists and research professionals in key research areas.

–By Katherine Hutchinson, Ph.D. Student, SAEON Egagasini Node