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Luc Rainville

Principal Oceanographer

Affiliate Assistant Professor, Oceanography






Dr. Rainville's research interests reside primarily in observational physical oceanography and span the wide range of spatial and temporal scales in the ocean. From large-scale circulation to internal waves to turbulence, the projects he is involved in focus on the interactions between phenomena of different scales. He is motivated to find simple and innovative ways to study the ocean, primarily through sea-going oceanography but also using with remote sensing and modeling.

In particular, Luc Rainville is interested in how phenomena typically considered 'small-scale' impact the oceanic system as a whole.

* Propagation of internal waves through eddies and fronts.
* Water mass formation and transformation by episodic forcing events.
* Mixing and internal waves in the Arctic and in the Southern Ocean.

Dr. Rainville joined the Ocean Physics Department at APL-UW at the end of 2007.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Physics


B.Sc. Physics, McGill University, 1998

Ph.D. Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2004


Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic — SODA

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31 Oct 2016

Vertical and lateral water properties and density structure with the Arctic Ocean are intimately related to the ocean circulation, and have profound consequences for sea ice growth and retreat as well as for prpagation of acoustic energy at all scales. Our current understanding of the dynamics governing arctic upper ocean stratification and circulation derives largely from a period when extensive ice cover modulated the oceanic response to atmospheric forcing. Recently, however, there has been significant arctic warming, accompanied by changes in the extent, thickness distribution, and properties of the arctic sea ice cover. The need to understand these changes and their impact on arctic stratification and circulation, sea ice evolution, and the acoustic environment motivate this initiative.

The Submesoscale Cascade in the South China Sea

This research program is investigating the evolution of submesoscale eddies and filaments in the Kuroshio-influenced region off the southwest coast of Taiwan.

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26 Aug 2015

Science questions:
1. What role does the Kuroshio play in generating mesoscale and submesoscale variability modeled/observed off the SW coast of Taiwan?
2. How does this vary with atmospheric forcing?
3. How do these features evolve in response to wintertime (strong) atmospheric forcing?
4. What role do these dynamics play in driving water mass evolution and interior stratification in the South China Sea?
5. What role do these dynamics/features have on the transition of water masses from northern SCS water into the Kuroshio branch water/current and local flow patterns?

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

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2000-present and while at APL-UW

Observations of the Tasman Sea internal tide beam

Waterhouse, A.F., S.M. Kelly, Z. Zhongxiang, J.A. MacKinnon, J.D. Nash, H. Simmons, D. Brahznikov, L. Rainville, M. Alford, and R. Pinkel, "Observations of the Tasman Sea internal tide beam," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 48, 1283-1297, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-17-0116.1, 2018.

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1 Jun 2018

Low-mode internal tides, a dominant part of the internal wave spectrum, carry energy over large distances, yet the ultimate fate of this energy is unknown. Internal tides in the Tasman Sea are generated at Macquarie Ridge, south of New Zealand, and propagate northwest as a focused beam before impinging on the Tasmanian continental slope. In situ observations from the Tasman Sea capture synoptic measurements of the incident semidiurnal mode-1 internal-tide, which has an observed wavelength of 183 km and surface displacement of approximately 1 cm. Plane-wave fits to in situ and altimetric estimates of surface displacement agree to within a measurement uncertainty of 0.3 cm, which is the same order of magnitude as the nonstationary (not phase locked) mode-1 tide observed over a 40-day mooring deployment. Stationary energy flux, estimated from a plane-wave fit to the in situ observations, is directed toward Tasmania with a magnitude of 3.4 ± 1.4 kW m-1, consistent with a satellite estimate of 3.9 ± 2.2 kW m-1. Approximately 90% of the time-mean energy flux is due to the stationary tide. However, nonstationary velocity and pressure, which are typically 1/4 the amplitude of the stationary components, sometimes lead to instantaneous energy fluxes that are double or half of the stationary energy flux, overwhelming any spring–neap variability. Despite strong winds and intermittent near-inertial currents, the parameterized turbulent-kinetic-energy dissipation rate is small (i.e., 10-10 W kg-1) below the near surface and observations of mode-1 internal tide energy-flux convergence are indistinguishable from zero (i.e., the confidence intervals include zero), indicating little decay of the mode-1 internal tide within the Tasman Sea.

Episodic reversal of autumn ice advance caused by release of ocean heat in the Beaufort Sea

Smith, M., S. Stammerjohn, O. Persson, L. Rainville, G. Liu, W. Perrie, R. Robertson, J. Jackson, and J. Thomson, "Episodic reversal of autumn ice advance caused by release of ocean heat in the Beaufort Sea," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1002/2018JC013764, 2018.

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12 Mar 2018

High‐resolution measurements of the air‐ice‐ocean system during an October 2015 event in the Beaufort Sea demonstrate how stored ocean heat can be released to temporarily reverse seasonal ice advance. Strong on‐ice winds over a vast fetch caused mixing and release of heat from the upper ocean. This heat was sufficient to melt large areas of thin, newly formed pancake ice; an average of 10 MJ/m2 was lost from the upper ocean in the study area, resulting in ~3–5 cm pancake sea ice melt. Heat and salt budgets create a consistent picture of the evolving air‐ice‐ocean system during this event, in both a fixed and ice‐following (Lagrangian) reference frame. The heat lost from the upper ocean is large compared with prior observations of ocean heat flux under thick, multi‐year Arctic sea ice. In contrast to prior studies, where almost all heat lost goes into ice melt, a significant portion of the ocean heat released in this event goes directly to the atmosphere, while the remainder (~30–40%) goes into melting sea ice. The magnitude of ocean mixing during this event may have been enhanced by large surface waves, reaching nearly 5 m at the peak, which are becoming increasingly common in the autumn Arctic Ocean. The wave effects are explored by comparing the air‐ice‐ocean evolution observed at short and long fetches, and a common scaling for Langmuir turbulence. After the event, the ocean mixed layer was deeper and cooler, and autumn ice formation resumed.

Zonal migration and transport variations of the Kuroshio east of Taiwan induced by eddy impingements

Chang, M.-H., S. Jan, V. Mensah, M. Andres, L. Rainville, Y.J. Yang, and Y.-H. Cheng, "Zonal migration and transport variations of the Kuroshio east of Taiwan induced by eddy impingements," Deep Sea Res., 131, doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2017.11.006, 2018.

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1 Jan 2018

Variability of the Kuroshio east of Taiwan was observed at a cross-stream transect ~ 50 km south of the PCM-1 line with an array of three moored ADCPs measuring for ~ 23 months, supplemented with eleven repeated shipboard surveys. Observations of the Kuroshio's velocity structure reveal the absence of an obvious regular seasonal signal, but significant variability at 70–200 day period for both maximum velocity axis migration and transport due to interactions with mesoscale eddies. Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis shows the migration and transport modes explain 46% and 29% of the total variance, respectively, which is in contrast to the findings at the PCM-1 line where the transport mode explained more variance than did the migration mode. The Kuroshio transport in the upper 500 m across a 150 km section is 17.2 Sv with a standard deviation of 5 Sv. The estimated Kuroshio transport is 4.3 Sv lower than that reported for the PCM-1 line, likely due to the interannual variations related to abundance of mesoscale eddies in the Subtropical Counter Current (STCC) region. Transport variability east of Taiwan is mostly caused by Kuroshio-eddy interactions. When single anticyclonic (cyclonic) eddies encounter the Kuroshio, they enhance (reduce) poleward transport, presumably by increasing (decreasing) the sea level anomaly (SLA) along the eastern flank of the Kuroshio (correlation = 0.82). When a pair of eddies impinges on the Kuroshio, the upstream confluence and diffluence caused by the dipole eddies increases and decreases the Kuroshio transport, respectively. Furthermore, the eastward (westward) currents that result from either the single eddy or the dipole eddy produce flow divergence (convergence) adjacent to the Kuroshio's eastern edge, favoring the offshore (onshore) migration of the Kuroshio axis.

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Temperature Microstructure Instrument Controller Logger

Record of Invention Number: 47906

Luc Rainville, Jason Gobat, Adam Huxtable, Geoff Shilling


6 Dec 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