APL Home

Campus Map

Eric D'Asaro

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Professor, Oceanography





Research Interests

Physical oceanography, internal waves, air-sea interaction, upper ocean dynamics, Arctic oceanography, ocean instrumentation


Dr. D'Asaro's research spans a wide number of environments from upper ocean mixed layers to nearshore coastal fronts to fjords to deep convection. It retains studies of turbulence and internal waves, but has increasingly moved toward understanding the role of these ocean mixing processes in controlling biochemical processes in the ocean, especially gas exchange and biological productivity. By measuring big signals, like hurricanes or major blooms, it is easier to unravel the underlying processes because the signal to noise is high.

For the past 20 years, D'Asaro has focused on exploiting the unique capabilities of "Lagrangian Floats", a class of instruments that try to accurately follow the three dimensional motion of water parcels particularly in regions of strong mixing. This turns out to be a novel but effective way to measure turbulence in regions of strong mixing.

Lagrangian techniques have not been used very much in measuring mixing and turbulence. Accordingly one of the more exciting aspects of this work is learning how to use Lagrangian floats in the ocean. This understanding draws both upon basic ideas in fluid mechanics and upon understanding of mixing in the ocean. It strongly influences float design, use, and the oceanographic problems studied. The work thus spans a wide range of topics, from fluid mechanics to oceanography to engineering. That makes it particularly fun and interesting.

Chemical species in the ocean and many microbial plants and animals drift with the ocean currents. Floats mimic this behavior, making them excellent platforms for studying aspects of ocean chemistry and biology. There is an ongoing revolution in these fields as electronic sensors become capable of making measurements formerly possible only in the laboratory. Floats equipped with such sensors are potentially very powerful tools. Dr. D'Asaro works to realize this potential, which is especially challenging and interesting as he collaborates with ocean biologists and chemists to design and operate multidisciplinary floats.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Physics


B.A. Physics, Harvard University, 1976

M.S. Applied Physics, Harvard University, 1976

Ph.D. Oceanography, MIT/WHOI, 1980


Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study — SPURS

The NASA SPURS research effort is actively addressing the essential role of the ocean in the global water cycle by measuring salinity and accumulating other data to improve our basic understanding of the ocean's water cycle and its ties to climate.

15 Apr 2015

Lateral Mixing

Small scale eddies and internal waves in the ocean mix water masses laterally, as well as vertically. This multi-investigator project aims to study the physics of this mixing by combining dye dispersion studies with detailed measurements of the velocity, temperature and salinity field during field experiments in 2011 and 2012.

1 Sep 2012

Autonomous Lagrangian Floats for Oxygen Minimum Zone Biogeochemistry

Researchers are developing a new, in situ, autonomous tool for studying N loss in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). It will allow observation of variability over a range in temporal and spatial scales that are critical for understanding controlling processes and better estimating the magnitude of N loss. The sustained deployments possible with autonomous platforms will be critical for detecting any response of OMZs to climate change.

More Info

31 May 2012

Intense oxygen minimum zones of the world's oceans, though constituting a small fraction of total oceanic volume, host critical biogeochemical processes and are central to understanding the ocean's N cycle and its biogeochemical and isotopic signatures. OMZs are sites for a large portion of marine combined N loss to N2 (25 to 50%) and dominate the ocean N isotope budget through cogeneration of 15N and 18O enriched NO3.

More Projects


Eddies Drive Particulate Carbon Deep in the Ocean During the North Atlantic Spring Bloom

The swirling eddies that create patches of stratification to hold phytoplankton near the sunlit surface during the North Atlantic spring bloom, also inject the floating organic carbon particles deep into the ocean. The finding, reported in Science, has important implications for the ocean's role in the carbon cycle on Earth: phytoplankton use carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean from the atmosphere during the bloom and the resulting organic carbon near the sea surface is sequestered in the deep ocean.

27 Mar 2015

Storm Chasing in the North Pacific

A research cruise was conducted in October 2012 to find stormy conditions and heavy seas far out in the Pacific Ocean. The objectives were to measure, with remote sensing technologies, the intense winds, large waves, and the turbulence generated by wave breaking. Understanding the balance of energy going into and breaking out of waves will be used to improve open ocean wave forecasts.

2 Nov 2012

North Atlantic Bloom Experiment: Ocean Eddies Initiate the Springtime Phytoplankton Bloom

APL-UW oceanographers and their colleagues at WHOI and Univ. of Maine report in Science on a new physical mechanism discovered in the North Atlantic Ocean. Eddies convert horizontal density gradients to vertical ones, causing a stratification that brings the phytoplankton to the sunlit surface where they can grow.

5 Jul 2012

More Videos


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Autonomous multi-platform observations during the Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study

Lindstrom, E.J., A.Y. Shcherbina, L. Rainville, J.T. Farrar, L.R. Centurioni, S. Dong, E.A. D’Asaro, C. Eriksen, D.M. Fratantoni, B.A. Hodges, V. Hormann, W.S. Kessler, C.M. Lee, S.C. Riser, L. St. Laurent, and D.L. Volkov, "Autonomous multi-platform observations during the Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study," Oceanography, 38-48, doi:, 2017.

More Info

1 Jun 2017

The Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study (SPURS) aims to understand the patterns and variability of sea surface salinity. In order to capture the wide range of spatial and temporal scales associated with processes controlling salinity in the upper ocean, research vessels delivered autonomous instruments to remote sites, one in the North Atlantic and one in the Eastern Pacific. Instruments sampled for one complete annual cycle at each of these two sites, which are subject to contrasting atmospheric forcing. The SPURS field programs coordinated sampling from many different platforms, using a mix of Lagrangian and Eulerian approaches. This article discusses the motivations, implementation, and first results of the SPURS-1 and SPURS-2 programs.

On the role of sea-state in bubble-mediated air-sea gas flux during a winter storm

Liang, J.-H., S.R. Emerson, E.A. D'Asaro, C.L. McNeil, R.R. Harcourt, P.P. Sullivan, B. Yang, and M.F. Cronin, "On the role of sea-state in bubble-mediated air-sea gas flux during a winter storm," J. Geophys. Res., 122, 2671-2685, doi:10.1002/2016JC012408, 2017.

More Info

1 Apr 2017

Oceanic bubbles play an important role in the air-sea exchange of weakly soluble gases at moderate to high wind speeds. A Lagrangian bubble model embedded in a large eddy simulation model is developed to study bubbles and their influence on dissolved gases in the upper ocean. The transient evolution of mixed-layer dissolved oxygen and nitrogen gases at Ocean Station Papa (50°N, 145°W) during a winter storm is reproduced with the model. Among different physical processes, gas bubbles are the most important in elevating dissolved gas concentrations during the storm, while atmospheric pressure governs the variability of gas saturation anomaly (the relative departure of dissolved gas concentration from the saturation concentration). For the same wind speed, bubble-mediated gas fluxes are larger during rising wind with smaller wave age than during falling wind with larger wave age. Wave conditions are the primary cause for the bubble gas flux difference: when wind strengthens, waves are less-developed with respect to wind, resulting in more frequent large breaking waves. Bubble generation in large breaking waves is favorable for a large bubble-mediated gas flux. The wave-age dependence is not included in any existing bubble-mediated gas flux parameterizations.

Estimates of surface wind stress and drag coefficients in Typhoon Megi

Hsu, J.-Y., R.-C. Lien, E.A. D'asare, and T.B. Sanford, "Estimates of surface wind stress and drag coefficients in Typhoon Megi," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 47, 545-565, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-16-0069.1, 2017.

More Info

1 Mar 2017

Estimates of drag coefficients beneath Typhoon Megi (2010) are calculated from roughly hourly velocity profiles of three EM-APEX floats, air launched ahead of the storm, and from air-deployed dropsondes measurements and microwave estimates of the 10-m wind field. The profiles are corrected to minimize contributions from tides and low-frequency motions and thus isolate the current induced by Typhoon Megi. Surface wind stress is computed from the linear momentum budget in the upper 150 m. Three-dimensional numerical simulations of the oceanic response to Typhoon Megi indicate that with small corrections, the linear momentum budget is accurate to 15% before the passage of the eye but cannot be applied reliably thereafter. Monte Carlo error estimates indicate that stress estimates can be made for wind speeds greater than 25 m s-1; the error decreases with greater wind speeds. Downwind and crosswind drag coefficients are computed from the computed stress and the mapped wind data. Downwind drag coefficients increase to 3.5 ± 0.7 x 10-3 at 31 m s-1, a value greater than most previous estimates, but decrease to 2.0 ± 0.4 x 10-3 for wind speeds > 45 m s-1, in agreement with previous estimates. The crosswind drag coefficient of 1.6 ± 0.5 x 10-3 at wind speeds 30–45 m s-1 implies that the wind stress is about 20° clockwise from the 10-m wind vector and thus not directly downwind, as is often assumed.

More Publications


Open Water Detection from Beneath Sea Ice

Record of Invention Number: 47655

Eric D'Asaro, Andrey Shcherbina


16 Mar 2016

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center