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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

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.

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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

A warm jet in a cold ocean

MacKinnon, J.A., and 28 others including J. Thomson, S.D. Brenner, C.M. Lee, L. Rainville, and M.M. Smith, "A warm jet in a cold ocean," Nat. Commun., 12, doi:10.1038/s41467-021-22505-5, 2021.

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23 Apr 2021

Unprecedented quantities of heat are entering the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean through Bering Strait, particularly during summer months. Though some heat is lost to the atmosphere during autumn cooling, a significant fraction of the incoming warm, salty water subducts (dives beneath) below a cooler fresher layer of near-surface water, subsequently extending hundreds of kilometers into the Beaufort Gyre. Upward turbulent mixing of these sub-surface pockets of heat is likely accelerating sea ice melt in the region. This Pacific-origin water brings both heat and unique biogeochemical properties, contributing to a changing Arctic ecosystem. However, our ability to understand or forecast the role of this incoming water mass has been hampered by lack of understanding of the physical processes controlling subduction and evolution of this this warm water. Crucially, the processes seen here occur at small horizontal scales not resolved by regional forecast models or climate simulations; new parameterizations must be developed that accurately represent the physics. Here we present novel high resolution observations showing the detailed process of subduction and initial evolution of warm Pacific-origin water in the southern Beaufort Gyre.

Comparing observations and parameterizations of ice–ocean drag through an annual cycle across the Beaufort Sea

Brenner, S., L. Rainville, J. Thomson, S. Cole, C. Lee, "Comparing observations and parameterizations of ice–ocean drag through an annual cycle across the Beaufort Sea," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1029/2020JC016977, 2021.

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29 Mar 2021

Understanding and predicting sea ice dynamics and ice‐ocean feedback processes requires accurate descriptions of momentum fluxes across the ice‐ocean interface. In this study, we present observations from an array of moorings in the Beaufort Sea. Using a force‐balance approach, we determine ice‐ocean drag coefficient values over an annual cycle and a range of ice conditions. Statistics from high resolution ice draft measurements are used to calculate expected drag coefficient values from morphology‐based parameterization schemes. With both approaches, drag coefficient values ranged from approximately 1–10 x 10-3, with a minimum in fall and a maximum at the end of spring, consistent with previous observations. The parameterizations do a reasonable job of predicting the observed drag values if the under ice geometry is known, and reveal that keel drag is the primary contributor to the total ice‐ocean drag coefficient. When translations of bulk model outputs to ice geometry are included in the parameterizations, they overpredict drag on floe edges, leading to the inverted seasonal cycle seen in prior models. Using these results to investigate the efficiency of total momentum flux across the atmosphere‐ice‐ocean interface suggests an inter‐annual trend of increasing coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean.

Observations and modeling of ocean circulation in the Seychelles plateau region

Castillo-Trujillo, A.C., I.B. Arzeno-Soltero, S.N. Giddings, G. Pawlak, J. McClean, and L. Rainville, "Observations and modeling of ocean circulation in the Seychelles plateau region," J. Geophys. Res., 126, doi:10.1029/2020JC016593, 2021.

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1 Feb 2021

The ocean circulation around and over the Seychelles Plateau (SP) is characterized using 35 months of temperature and velocity measurements along with a numerical model. The results here provide the first documented description of the ocean circulation atop the SP. The SP is an unusually broad (~200 km), shallow (~50 m) plateau, dropping off steeply to the abyss. It is situated in a dynamic location (3.5–5.5°S, 54–57°E) in the south‐western tropical Indian Ocean where northwesterly winds are present during austral summer and become southeasterly in austral winter, following the reversal of the western Indian ocean monsoon winds. Measurements around the Inner Islands, on the SP, have been carried out since 2015. Velocity measurements show that most of the depth‐averaged current variance on the SP arises from near‐inertial oscillations and lower‐frequency variability. Lower‐frequency variability encompasses seasonal and intraseasonal variability, the latter of which includes the effects of mixed Rossby‐gravity waves and mesoscale eddies. A global 0.1° numerical ocean simulation is used in conjunction with these observations to describe the regional circulation around the SP. Atop the SP, circulation is dominated by ageostrophic processes consistent with Ekman dynamics, while around the SP, both geostrophic and ageostrophic processes are important and vary seasonally. Stratification responds to the sea surface height semiannual signal which is due to Ekman pumping‐driven upwelling (related to the Seychelles–‐Chagos Thermocline Ridge) and the arrival of an annual downwelling Rossby wave.

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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