Amala Mahadevan’s lab studies physical processes related to the oceanic carbon cycle, biogeochemical distributions, and the ocean’s role in climate change. Using modeling and the analysis of observational data, the group investigates the implications of ocean processes on the productivity and distribution of phytoplankton, the transport and mixing of properties, and the exchange of heat and freshwater between the surface ocean, deep ocean and atmosphere. Having developed one of the first three-dimensional non-hydrostatic ocean models suited for limited domains, the group uses the model as a research tool for exploring mesoscale and submesoscale phenomena. The Process Study Ocean Model (PSOM) is used to study a number of processes such as the vertical transport of nutrients by frontal and submesoscale processes, the dynamics of the shelfbreak front, heterogeneity in the distributions of various biogeochemical tracers, and the interaction of aquatic vegetation and flow in shallow coastal environments. Data from a number of sources including satellite, in situ ship-based observations, and autonomous observations with ships and gliders are the basis of many of the studies.
One broad theme of the research is understanding the interactions between physical processes, the autotrophic community and the carbon cycle. Another is the role of the surface oceanic layer in exchanging heat, moisture and gases with the atmosphere and the vast ocean that lies beneath.