Dr. Fabrice Veron recently joined the faculty of the University of Delaware’s Graduate College of Marine Studies (CMS) as an assistant professor in the Physical Ocean Science and Engineering Program. Veron is an oceanographer who is interested in the interactions that occur between the atmosphere and the surface of the ocean.
Veron’s research will focus on waves and turbulence at the ocean surface and their implications on both a global and local scale. Although these are generally very small disturbances relative to the size of the ocean, they can have far-reaching effects. In coastal areas, for example, breaking waves can generate surface currents that are important in both sediment transport, which is partly responsible for changes in the coastline, and nutrient transport, which is necessary for the growth of coastal organisms.
“In addition, the effects of these waves on surface currents are crucial to understanding the dispersion of floating pollutants such as oil or industrial surfactants,” says Veron. “This will ultimately help in the decision-making process for both preventive and remedial actions.”
Veron also will be conducting research to determine the types of interactions that occur at the air-sea interface. For example, surface-breaking waves generate sea spray, which suspends salt and other particles in the air. These particles have a tremendous potential for condensing water in the upper atmosphere and generating clouds that affect global climate.
The generation of sea spray also increases the amount of water droplets in the air and transfers large amounts of heat from the ocean to the air. This, in turn, is believed to be an important mechanism through which storms and hurricanes get a significant amount of energy.
“Similarly, carbon dioxide and other gases are transferred from the air to the ocean,” continues Veron. “Although it is known that surface turbulence plays a role in this gas transfer, it has not yet been fully quantified. Research in the area of air-sea interactions is currently expanding because of the realization that our scientific knowledge of the processes that couple the ocean and the atmosphere, while vital to pressing global issues, is rather poor.”
Veron will be collecting data for his research using the Wind-Wave-Current Research Facility in Lewes. This facility consists of a large flume that is 37 meters long, 1 meter wide, and 1.2 meters high. This flume is one of the most technologically advanced in the country and is able to generate waves, wind, and currents in a repeatable, controllable manner. As a result, data can be collected over a wide variety of conditions — data that can otherwise be very difficult to collect in nature.
“I am excited about having the opportunity to develop a research program at CMS,” says Veron. “CMS is well respected within the oceanographic community and has provided me with a great environment within which to work and teach. In addition, I hope to have the opportunity to work with the Coastal and Ocean Engineering Program in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department — a group that is also world renowned.”
Veron earned his doctorate in physical oceanography and applied ocean sciences from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego. He received Scripps’ annual Edward A. Frieman Director’s Prize in recognition of excellence in his graduate student research. Veron also holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Bordeaux in France. Prior to joining CMS, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Scripps Institution.