Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics

Ship based observations

Research vessels Meteor and Polarstern meet each other near the equator at 23°W.

The observing physical oceanography group is mainly working on data measured directly in the ocean, so-called in-situ data. This means that open ocean cruises onboard the big research vessels still remain the highlights in the professional life of Physical Oceanographers. All publications and all results are somehow based on data gathered during these cruises.  


Different instruments and measurement techniques are utilised onboard the research vessels. Most important are:


Already during the first meteor cruises in the 1920s in the South Atlantic researchers were interested in temperature and salinity profiles of the water column from the sea surface to the sea floor at several thousand meters water depth.  more



Measurements of current velocity are usually performed acoustically. By exploiting the Doppler effect with the so-called ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler), sections of the current velocity over a depth range of up to 1600m are taken.  more


Microstructure probe


Tracer Release

 The open ocean tracer release experiment is an accurate method to investigate the turbulent vertical mixing and horizontal dispersion in the ocean. The experiment starts with the release of a chemical compound, concentrations of which are detectable even when strongly diluted. With time, the tracer patch spreads horizontally and vertically, its spread monitored by several cruise campaigns.   more