Imaging the Ocean

Imaging the OceanEarth and environmental studies professor Tanya Blacic will travel to South Korea this summer to initiate a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration with a researcher from Seoul National University. Blacic and geoscience graduate student Hayley Rosado will spend a month in professor Changsoo Shin’s lab working to apply his method of obtaining background sound speed models in the solid earth from marine seismic data to the ocean itself.

“The background sound speed models are a starting point for extracting high-resolution 2-D images of ocean temperature from marine seismic data,” explains Blacic. “These types of images can reveal fine-scale ocean processes like mixing and turbulence, which affect how heat and gases are distributed over time and space throughout the oceans and how they interact with the atmosphere.”

Imaging the OceanAccording to Blacic, improved imaging of these interactions could eventually help researchers more accurately model the atmosphere to predict climate change. Using Laplace domain inversion (LDI), Shin and his colleagues extract smooth background variations in the speed of sound, which is related to a material’s physical properties, through rock from seismic data.

The results will provide a better understanding of physical oceanography processes.

“Seismic waves are sensitive to small changes in water temperature and salinity, so we can see where temperature changes rapidly,” Blacic says. “This can help us understand nutrient distribution, which has implications for fisheries management.”