Fabrice Veron, an assistant professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies, has received a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research. This award is presented to "outstanding new faculty members at institutions of higher education, to support their research and to encourage their teaching and research careers."
In a letter from the U.S. Department of the Navy, Rear Admiral Jay M. Cohen, Chief of Naval Research, noted that Veron "emerged successfully from a very competitive pool [of applicants] because of his academic achievements, his ability to contribute to the strength of the Nation's research and development, and the commitment to him expressed by university administrators."
The three-year $310,787 award will support Veron's research on understanding the effects of airborne water droplets, such as raindrops or ocean spray, on the exchange of energy and heat between the ocean and atmosphere.
Airborne water droplets interfere with satellite or land-based remote sensing of the ocean surface, electromagnetic communication, military surveillance, and weather forecasting -- areas of particular interest to the Navy. However, little work has been done to understand the behavior of water droplets in the lower atmosphere close to the surface of the ocean, where they cause the most effects.
"Recent work has indicated that these airborne droplets can exchange significant amounts of energy and heat with the atmosphere, especially in high wind-speed situations such as hurricanes or storms when there is a lot of rain and sea spray in the atmosphere," says Veron.
Energy is transferred, for example, when wind removes a droplet of water from the surface of the ocean, forming sea spray. The droplet of sea spray accelerates until it reaches the same speed as the wind. Since energy must be conserved, the wind loses energy as the droplet accelerates, and the wind speed actually decreases.
On the other hand, energy also can be transferred to the wind. A droplet of rain that originates higher in the atmosphere slows down as it approaches the surface of the ocean. In this case, the droplet loses energy to the wind, and the wind accelerates.
"These exchanges of energy between the wind and the droplets and the exchanges of heat between the atmosphere and the droplets are important in controlling the strength of the wind, which are factors in sustaining hurricanes or storms," says Veron. "It's a complicated problem."
Veron will integrate the effects of turbulence in the atmosphere and the influence of the surface waves into an existing computer model to gain a better understanding of how these exchanges occur. He also will conduct experiments that will examine how rain transfers energy to the ocean as it impacts the surface and generates currents or turbulence in the water.
These experiments will be done in a large flume or wave tank, located in UD's Air-Sea Interaction Laboratory in Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. The wave tank is one of the most technologically advanced of its kind in the world and is approximately 140 feet long, 3 feet wide, 4 feet high, and holds 8,000 gallons of water.
A member of UD's faculty since 2002, 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 in 2000 and received their annual Edward A. Frieman Director's Prize in recognition of excellence for his graduate student research. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in applied mechanics and mechanical engineering from the University of Bordeaux in France in 1993 and 1995, respectively.