Role of Chaos in Deep Ocean Turned Upside Down

Devin Powell for Nature News
Friday, March 4, 2016

Raf Ferrari and postdoc Ali Mashayek stir things up at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

Read this story at Nature News

"In the deep abysses of the ocean, small swirls of water can wield great power. Like the proverbial butterfly flap that stirs up a hurricane, this chaotic turbulence has long been thought to lift up water in the ocean’s interior to drive currents that stretch across the globe."

"Now, some researchers are rethinking the role of this turbulence — turning it upside down. Using computer simulations fed with measurements from the field, they argue that small-scale turbulence drives circulation by pushing water in the ocean’s interior down, not up."

Story image: adapted from a vizualisation by Ali Mashayek.


Raf Ferrari is an oceanographer interested in the dynamics of the ocean and climate with active research efforts in the areas of atmospheric and oceanic turbulence, air-sea interactions, the energetics of the ocean circulation, the impact of ocean physics on biology, and questions of paleoclimate. In my research I use a combination of theoretical fluid dynamics, numerical modeling, and analysis of observations.

Ali Mashayek is a postdoctoral associate working with Ferrari who's work focuses on the role of turbulence in driving the ocean circulation and its coupling with the atmosphere and the cryosphere.