Baylor Fox-Kemper

Baylor Fox-Kemper

Ph.D. MIT/Woods Hole Joint Program, 2003
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC)

Office: Ekeley S250B
Phone: 303-492-0532
Fax: fax: 303-492-1149
Web: Fox-Kemper Research Group

Research Interests

Ocean modeling and theory from the global scale to universal models: turbulence, nonlinear systems, parameterizations, toy models.

Current Research: Improving Subgridscale Physics in Ocean Climate Models

My research group focuses largely on the representation of mesoscale (100 km), submesoscale (1-10 km), and Langmuirscale (100 m) mixing processes in global climate models. The group is improving the representation of these processes in climate models and has demonstrated some impacts of properly representing them on global climate simulations.

On 20 April 2010, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform and subsequent oil leakage has provided images of many near-surface mixing processes in action. The shape of the spilled oil as it spreads and is stirred by mesoscale and submesoscale eddies (Figure 1), and the formation of windrows between the Langmuir cells (Figure 2), are disturbing examples of oceanic stirring at different scales.

figure 1

Figure 1: This image, taken by the International Space Station Expedition 23 crew on 4 May 2010, shows the oil slick approaching the 25-km wide Mississippi River Delta. The shape of the slick has been strained and stirred, likely by mesoscale eddies, submesoscale fronts, and submesoscale eddies.

figure 2

Figure 2: A false-color image from NASA’s Terra satellite on 1 May 2010. The streaking patterns perpendicular to the wave crests are likely windrows between Langmuir circulations.

High-resolution regional models can directly represent these processes, but they are far too small to be directly represented in global climate models, in which one grid cell usually spans more than 200 km. Scaling laws found from high-resolution simulations and mathematical analyses of these subgrid processes can be transformed into simple models of their bulk behavior. These simple models, or parameterizations, are then incorporated into global climate models.

The submesoscale parameterization developed by my group is being used in many of the models presently simulating future climate for the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5), due in 2013.

Looking even farther ahead, improving the representation of Langmuir mixing in global climate models and validating the results against satellite wave observations is occupying much of my group’s present work, in collaboration with scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), CU-Boulder, the University of Washington, and the University of New Hampshire. The CIRES Innovative Research Program began this project, and it continues with NASA funding and a new NSF project on interactions between Langmuir and submesoscale phenomena.

Scientists working on representing mesoscale eddies in global climate models celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Gent-McWilliams parameterization this year. Yet, much remains unknown. My research group, with NCAR and University of Hamburg scientists, has completed a massive simulation allowing stirring by mesoscale eddies to be mapped globally in three dimensions for the first time. Improving the Gent-McWilliams parameterization based on these results is ongoing.

Finally, testing new parameterizations requires statistical tools to probe the behavior of complex phenomena such as El Niño. The group develops these tools, and they are being used to test ongoing IPCC AR5 model results against modern observations and paleoclimate proxy data.

See also: Fox-Kemper Research Group Projects [ projects pages ]

Selected Publications [ publications pages ]

Click here for a complete list of published works »

Professor Fox-Kemper is a CIRES Professor.