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Craig Lee

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Professor, Oceanography

Email

craig@apl.washington.edu

Phone

206-685-7656

Research Interests

Upper Ocean Dynamics, Coastal Ocean Processes, Internal Waves, Fronts, Dynamics and Biological Process Interactions

Biosketch

Dr. Lee is a physical oceanographer specializing in observations and instrument development. His primary scientific interests include: (1) upper ocean dynamics, especially mesoscale and submesocale fronts and eddies, (2) interactions between biology, biogeochemistry and ocean physics and (3) high-latitude oceanography.

With partner Dr. Jason Gobat, Lee founded and leads a team of scientists and technologists that pursues a wide range of oceanographic field programs, including intensive studies of the Kuroshio Current, coupled physical–biogeochemical studies such as the recent patch-scale investigation of the North Atlantic spring phytoplankton bloom and studies aimed at quantifying and understanding Arctic change. An important component of this work involves identifying advances that could be achieved through novel measurements and developing new instruments to meet these needs.

The team's accomplishments include autonomous gliders capable of extended operation in ice-covered waters, high-performance towed vehicles and light-weight, inexpensive mooring technologies. The team also pursues K-12 educational outreach and routinely employs undergraduate research assistants. Within the community, Lee provides leadership through service on the science steering committees for several large research programs and by serving on and chairing advisory panels for U.S. Arctic efforts. Lee supports and advises masters and doctoral students and teaches graduate level courses on observations of ocean circulation and instruments, methods and experimental design.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Physics

Education

B.S. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1987

Ph.D. Physical Oceanography, University of Washington, 1995

Projects

Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic — SODA

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.

31 Oct 2016

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.

More Info

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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Videos

EXPORTS: Export Processes in the Ocean from RemoTe Sensing

The EXPORTS mission is to quantify how much of the atmospheric carbon dioxide fixed during primary production near the ocean surface is pumped to the deep twilight zone by biological processes, where it can be sequestered for months to millennia.

An integrated observation strategy leverages the precise, intense measurements made on ships, the persistent subsurface data collected by swimming and floating robots, and the global surface views provided by satellites.

18 Sep 2018

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

Seaglider: Autonomous Undersea Vehicle

APL-UW scientists continually expand Seaglider's hardware/software systems, and sensor packages. First developed for oceanographic research, it is also used by the U.S. Navy to detect and monitor marine mammals. Recently, the manufacture and marketing of Seaglider has been licensed to Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc., which will push the vehicle to emerging markets in offshore environmental monitoring for the oil and gas industry.

14 Aug 2013

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Publications

2000-present and while at APL-UW

Acoustic sensing of ocean mixed layer depth and temperature from uplooking ADCPs

Brenner, S., J. Thomson, L. Rainville, D. Torres, M. Doble, J. Wilkinson, and C. Lee, "Acoustic sensing of ocean mixed layer depth and temperature from uplooking ADCPs," J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol., 40, doi:10.1175/JTECH-D-22-0055.1, 2022.

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1 Jan 2023

Properties of the surface mixed layer (ML) are critical for understanding and predicting atmosphere-sea ice-ocean interactions in the changing Arctic Ocean. Mooring measurements are typically unable to resolve the ML in the Arctic due to the need for instruments to remain below the surface to avoid contact with sea ice and icebergs. Here, we use measurements from a series of three moorings installed for one year in the Beaufort Sea to demonstrate that upward looking Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs) installed on subsurface floats can be used to estimate ML properties. A method is developed for combining measured peaks in acoustic backscatter and inertial shear from the ADCPs to estimate the ML depth. Additionally, we use an inverse sound speed model to infer the summer ML temperature based on offsets in ADCP altimeter distance during open water periods. The ADCP estimates of ML depth and ML temperature compare favourably with measurements made from mooring temperature sensors, satellite SST, and from an autonomous Seaglider. These methods could be applied to other extant mooring records to recover additional information about ML property changes and variability.

Air-ice-ocean interactions and the delay of autumn freeze-up in the Western Arctic Ocean

Thomson, J., M. Smith, K. Drushka, and C. Lee, "Air-ice-ocean interactions and the delay of autumn freeze-up in the Western Arctic Ocean," Oceanography, 35, 76-87, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2022.124, 2022.

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1 Dec 2022

Arctic sea ice is becoming a more seasonal phenomenon as a direct result of global warming. Across the Arctic, the refreezing of the ocean surface each autumn now occurs a full month later than it did just 40 years ago. In the western Arctic (Canada Basin), the delay is related to an increase in the seasonal heat stored in surface waters; cooling to the freezing point requires more heat loss to the atmosphere in autumn. In the marginal ice zone, the cooling and freezing process is mediated by ocean mixing and by the presence of remnant sea ice, which may precondition the ocean surface for refreezing. The delay in refreezing has many impacts, including increased open ocean exposure to autumn storms, additional wave energy incident to Arctic coasts, shifts in animal migration patterns, and extension of the time window for transit by commercial ships along the Northern Sea Route. This article reviews the observed trends in the western Arctic and the processes responsible for these trends, and provides brief in situ observations from the Beaufort Sea that illustrate some of these processes.

Emerging technologies and approaches for in situ, autonomous observing in the Arctic

Lee, C.M., M. DeGrandpre, J. Guthrie, V. Hill, R. Kwok, M.J. Morison, C.J. Cox, H. Singh, T.P. Stanton, and J. Wilkinson, "Emerging technologies and approaches for in situ, autonomous observing in the Arctic," Oceanography, 35, 210-221, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2022.127, 2022.

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1 Dec 2022

Understanding and predicting Arctic change and its impacts on global climate requires broad, sustained observations of the atmosphere-ice-ocean system, yet technological and logistical challenges severely restrict the temporal and spatial scope of observing efforts. Satellite remote sensing provides unprecedented, pan-Arctic measurements of the surface, but complementary in situ observations are required to complete the picture. Over the past few decades, a diverse range of autonomous platforms have been developed to make broad, sustained observations of the ice-free ocean, often with near-real-time data delivery. Though these technologies are well suited to the difficult environmental conditions and remote logistics that complicate Arctic observing, they face a suite of additional challenges, such as limited access to satellite services that make geolocation and communication possible. This paper reviews new platform and sensor developments, adaptations of mature technologies, and approaches for their use, placed within the framework of Arctic Ocean observing needs.

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In The News

During a pandemic, is oceangoing research safe?

Eos, Jenessa Duncombe

Postponing cruises. Cancelling cruises. UNOLS has extended its halt on vessel operations until July. UNOLS Chair Craig Lee explains why onboard mitigation of COVID-19 is "difficult to impossible."

1 Apr 2020

Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on scientific field work

The Washington Post, Maddie Stone

As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to upend life around the world, scientific research is beginning to suffer. Over the past several weeks, major Earth science field campaigns, some years in the making, have been called off or postponed indefinitely. Craig Lee, APL-UW Senior Principal Oceanographer and UNOLS Council Chair, comments on impacts to at-sea research.

27 Mar 2020

These ocean robots spent a year collecting data under Antarctic ice

Geek.com, Genevieve Scarano

Studying Antarctic areas can be tough for scientists, but ocean robots are here to help: A group of autonomous subs have successfully collected data beneath the Dotson Ice Shelf in West Antarctica.

24 Jan 2019

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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
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