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Ramsey Harcourt

Principal Oceanographer





Research Interests

Large Eddy Simulation (LES), Computational Fluid Dynamics, Deep Convection, Wave and Ice Boundary Layers, Response of Drifters to Convection

Department Affiliation

Ocean Physics


B.S. Physics, Reed College, 1987

M.S. Physics, University of California - Santa Cruz, 1989

Ph.D. Physics, University of California - Santa Cruz, 1999


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Evaluating Monin–Obukhov scaling in the unstable oceanic surface layer

Zheng, Z., R.R. Harcourt, and E.A. D'Asaro, "Evaluating Monin–Obukhov scaling in the unstable oceanic surface layer," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 51, 911–930, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-20-0201.1, 2021.

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1 Mar 2021

Monin–Obukhov Similarity Theory (MOST) provides important scaling laws for flow properties in the surface layer of the atmosphere and has contributed to most of our understanding of the near-surface turbulence. The prediction of near-surface vertical mixing in most operational ocean models is largely built upon this theory. However, the validity of MOST in the upper ocean is questionable due to the demonstrated importance of surface waves in the region. Here we examine the validity of MOST in the statically unstable oceanic surface layer, using data collected from two open ocean sites with different wave conditions. The observed vertical temperature gradients are found to be about half of those predicted by MOST. We hypothesize this is attributable to either the breaking of surface waves, or Langmuir turbulence generated by the wave-current interaction. Existing turbulence closure models for surface wave breaking and for Langmuir turbulence are simplified to test these two hypotheses. Although both models predict reduced temperature gradients, the simplified Langmuir turbulence model matches observations more closely, when appropriately tuned.

Bulk, spectral and deep water approximations for Stokes drift: Implications for coupled ocean circulation and surface wave models

Liu, G.Q., N. Kumar, R. Harcourt, W. Perrie, "Bulk, spectral and deep water approximations for Stokes drift: Implications for coupled ocean circulation and surface wave models," J. Adv. Model. Earth Syst., 13, doi:10.1029/2020MS002172, 2021.

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22 Feb 2021

Surface waves modify upper ocean dynamics through Stokes drift related processes. Stokes drift estimated from a discrete wave spectrum is compared to Stokes drift approximations as a monochromatic profile based on bulk surface wave parameters, and to two additional superexponential functional forms. The impact of these different methods on ocean processes is examined in two test‐bed cases of a wave‐current coupled system: (1) a wind‐free shallow water inlet test case and (2) an idealized deep water hurricane case with high varying winds. In case (1), tidal currents and bathymetry can modify the waves and significantly affect Stokes drift computed from the wave spectrum. In case (2), rapid variation in atmospheric stress at high wind speed generates large departures from fully developed equilibrium seas. In both cases, large deviations in ocean current response are produced when the Stokes drift is approximated monochromatically from bulk wave parameters, rather than from integration over the wave spectra. Deep water simulations using the two superexponential approximations are in better agreement with those estimated from wave spectra than are those using the monochromatic, exponential profile based on bulk wave parameters. In order to represent the impact of Stokes drift at resolved scales, we recommend that for studies of nearshore processes and deep water events, like wave‐current interactions under storms, the Stokes drift should be calculated from full wave spectra. For long simulations of open ocean dynamics, methods using superexponential profiles to represent equilibrium wind seas might be sufficient, but appear to be marginally more computationally efficient.

Suppression of CO2 outgassing by gas bubbles under a hurricane

Liang, J.-H., E.A. D'Asaro, C.L. McNeil, Y. Fan, R.R. Harcourt, S.R. Emerson, B. Yang, and P.P. Sullivan, "Suppression of CO2 outgassing by gas bubbles under a hurricane," Geophys. Res. Lett., 47, doi:10.1029/2020GL090249, 2020.

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28 Sep 2020

The role of gas bubbles on the air‐sea CO2 flux during Hurricane Frances (2004) is studied using a large‐eddy simulation model that couples ocean surface boundary layer turbulence, gas bubbles, and dissolved gases. In the subtropical surface ocean where gases are slightly supersaturated, gases in bubbles can still dissolve due to hydrostatic pressure and surface tension exerted on bubbles. Under the simulated conditions, the CO2 efflux with an explicit bubble effect is less than 2% of that calculated using a gas flux formula without explicit inclusion of bubble effect. The use of a gas flux parameterization without bubble‐induced supersaturation contributes to uncertainty in the global carbon budget. The results highlight the importance of bubbles under high winds even for soluble gases such as CO2 and demonstrate that gas flux parameterization derived from gases of certain solubility may not be accurate for gases of very different solubility.

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