Campus Map

Luc Rainville

Head, OPD Department & 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

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

More Projects


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Saptiotemporal variability of rainfall and surface salinity in the Eastern Pacific Fresh Pool: A joint in situ and satellite analysis during the SPURS-2 field campaign

Chi, N.-H., E.J. Thompson, H.A. Chen, A. Shcherbina, F. Bingham, and L. Rainville, "Saptiotemporal variability of rainfall and surface salinity in the Eastern Pacific Fresh Pool: A joint in situ and satellite analysis during the SPURS-2 field campaign," J. Geophys. Res., 128, doi:10.1029/2022JC019599, 2023.

More Info

13 Dec 2023

We perform a statistical characterization of the 2016–2017 SPURS-2 field campaign in situ data and coincident satellite data spanning 8°–12°N, 120°–130°W to quantify the spatial and temporal scales of variability of rain and near-surface salinity in the Eastern Pacific Fresh Pool. Observations of rain rate and near-surface to surface salinity are obtained from ships, moorings, autonomous platforms, and satellite remote sensing: Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG); and Soil Moisture Active Passive (NASA SMAP L3 V5). The integral length and time scales of rain and near-surface salinity vary seasonally. In the rainy season (August–October) when the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) migrates over the SPURS-2 study site, the integral time scales of rain were about 30–60 min and those of near-surface salinity were closer to that of the rain, 1–2 days, indicating forcing by rain. Meanwhile, the zonal integral length scale of in situ near-surface salinity was twice as large as the meridional scale (50 vs. 20 km), consistent with the ITCZ's zonally-propagating and -organized rain features. The magnitude and seasonal variation of the sea surface salinity integral time scale were not captured by SMAP since the rainy ITCZ-period scales were smaller than SMAP resolution (70 km, 8-day running mean). In the dry season (February–May), the in situ rain integral time scale reduced to less than 30 min while that of the near-surface salinity increased to 1–5 days, the ocean mesoscale. IMERG overestimated the rain integral time scale by a factor of two to ten in both seasons.

Damping of inertial motions through the radiation of near-inertial waves in a dipole vortex in the Iceland Basin

Thomas, L.N., E.D. Skyllingstad, L. Rainville, V. Hormann, L. Centurioni, J.N. Moum, O. Asselin, and C.M. Lee, "Damping of inertial motions through the radiation of near-inertial waves in a dipole vortex in the Iceland Basin," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 53, 1821-1833, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-22-0202.1, 2023.

More Info

22 May 2023

Along with boundary layer turbulence, downward radiation of near-inertial waves (NIWs) damps inertial oscillations (IOs) in the surface ocean, however the latter can also energize abyssal mixing. Here we present observations made from a dipole vortex in the Iceland Basin where, after the period of direct wind forcing, IOs lost over half their kinetic energy (KE) in two inertial periods to radiation of NIWs with minimal turbulent dissipation of KE. The dipole's vorticity gradient led to a rapid reduction in the NIW's lateral wavelength via ς-refraction that was accompanied by isopycnal undulations below the surface mixed layer. Pressure anomalies associated with the undulations were correlated with the NIW's velocity yielding an energy flux of 310 mW m-2 pointed antiparallel to the vorticity gradient and a downward flux of 1 mW m-2 capable of driving the observed drop in KE. The minimal role of turbulence in the energetics after the IOs had been generated by the winds was confirmed using a large eddy simulation driven by the observed winds.

Wind-driven motions of the ocean surface mixed layer in the Western Arctic

Brenner, S., J. Thomson, L. Rainville, L. Crews, and C. Lee, "Wind-driven motions of the ocean surface mixed layer in the Western Arctic," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 53, 1787-1804, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-22-0112.1, 2023.

More Info

12 Apr 2023

Observations of sea ice and the upper ocean from three moorings in the Beaufort Sea quantify atmosphere-ice-ocean momentum transfer, with a particular focus on the inertial-frequency response. Seasonal variations in the strength of mixed layer (ML) inertial oscillations suggest that sea ice damps momentum transfer from the wind to the ocean, such that the oscillation strength is minimal under sea ice cover. In contrast, the net Ekman transport is unimpacted by the presence of sea ice. The mooring measurements are interpreted with a simplified one-dimensional ice-ocean coupled "slab" model. The model results provide insight into the drivers of the inertial seasonality: namely, that a combination of both sea ice internal stress and ocean ML depth contribute to the seasonal variability of inertial surface currents and inertial sea ice drift, while under-ice roughness does not. Furthermore, the importance of internal stress in damping inertial oscillations is different at each moorings, with a minimal influence at the southernmost mooring (within the seasonal ice zone) and more influence at the northernmost mooring. As the Arctic shifts to a more seasonal sea ice regime, changes in sea ice cover and sea ice internal strength may impact inertial-band ice-ocean coupling and allow for an increase in wind forcing to the ocean.

More Publications

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