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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

Shipboard observations of the meteorology and near-surface environment during autumn freeze-up in the Beaufort/Chukchi seas

Persson, P.O.G., B. Blomquist, P. Guest, S. Stammerjohn, C. Fairall, L. Rainville, B. Lund, S. Ackley, and J. Thomson, "Shipboard observations of the meteorology and near-surface environment during autumn freeze-up in the Beaufort/Chukchi seas," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1029/2018JC013786, 2018.

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12 Jun 2018

The collection and processing of shipboard air, ice, and ocean measurements from the Sea State field campaign in the Beaufort/Chukchi Seas in autumn 2015 are described and the data used to characterize the near‐surface freezeup environment. The number of parameters measured or derived is large and the location and time of year are unique. Analysis was done of transits through the new, growing ice and of ice edge periods. Through differential surface energy fluxes, the presence of new, thin sea ice (<50 cm) produces lower tropospheric air temperatures in the ice interior that average ~4°C colder than those over open water near the ice edge, resulting in an ice edge baroclinic zone. This temperature difference doubles by late October and produces thermodynamic and dynamic feedbacks. These include off‐ice, cold‐air advection leading to enhanced surface heat loss averaging ~200 W/m2 over the open water, formation of low‐level jets, suppression of the ice edge baroclinic zone, and enhanced ice drift. The interior ice growth rate is thermodynamically consistent with a surface heat loss of ~65 W/m2 to the atmosphere and a heat flux of several tens of W/m2 from the ocean below. Ice drift at times contributes to the southward advance of the autumn ice edge through off‐ice winds. The ocean thermohaline structure is highly variable and appears associated with bathymetric features, small‐scale upper‐ocean eddies, and the growing ice cover. Lower salinity under the ice interior compared to the nearby ice edge is an upper‐ocean impact of this thin ice cover.

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.

Overview of the Arctic Sea State and Boundary Layer Physics Program

Thomson, J., and 32 others, including L. Rainville, and M. Smith, "Overview of the Arctic Sea State and Boundary Layer Physics Program," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1002/2018JC013766, 2018.

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16 Apr 2018

A large collaborative program has studied the coupled air‐ice‐ocean‐wave processes occurring in the Arctic during the autumn ice advance. The program included a field campaign in the western Arctic during the autumn of 2015, with in situ data collection and both aerial and satellite remote sensing. Many of the analyses have focused on using and improving forecast models. Summarizing and synthesizing the results from a series of separate papers, the overall view is of an Arctic shifting to a more seasonal system. The dramatic increase in open water extent and duration in the autumn means that large surface waves and significant surface heat fluxes are now common. When refreezing finally does occur, it is a highly variable process in space and time. Wind and wave events drive episodic advances and retreats of the ice edge, with associated variations in sea ice formation types (e.g., pancakes, nilas). This variability becomes imprinted on the winter ice cover, which in turn affects the melt season the following year.

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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