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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

More Projects


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Direct observations of the role of lateral advection of sea ice meltwater in the onset of autumn freeze up

Crews, L., C.M. Lee, L. Rainville, and J. Thomson, "Direct observations of the role of lateral advection of sea ice meltwater in the onset of autumn freeze up," J. Geophys. Res., 127, doi:10.1029/2021JC017775, 2022.

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1 Feb 2022

In seasonally ice-free parts of the Arctic Ocean, autumn is characterized by heat loss from the upper ocean to the atmosphere and the onset of freeze up, in which first year sea ice begins to grow in open water areas. The timing of freeze up can be highly spatially variable, complicating efforts to provide accurate sea ice forecasting for marine operations. While melt season anomalies can be used to predict freeze up anomalies in some parts of the Arctic, this one-dimensional view merits further examination in light of recent work demonstrating the importance of three-dimensional flows in setting mixed layer properties in marginal ice zones. In this study, we show that horizontal advection of sea ice meltwater hastens freeze up in areas distant from the ice edge. We use nearly 800 temperature and salinity profiles along with satellite imagery collected in the central Beaufort Sea in autumn 2018 to document the roughly 100 km advection of a cold and fresh surface meltwater layer over several weeks. After the meltwater arrived, the mixed layer was cooler and shallower than the mixed layer in adjacent areas unaffected by the meltwater. The cooler and shallower meltwater-influenced mixed layer promoted earlier ice formation. Within the meltwater-affected area, advection was nearly as important as heat loss to the atmosphere for seasonally integrated mixed layer heat loss.

Northern Ocean Rapid Surface Evolution (NORSE): Science and Experiment Plan

Ballard, M., and 35 others including L. Rainville, L. Johnson, C. Lee, J. Shapiro, J. Thomson, and K. Zeiden, "Northern Ocean Rapid Surface Evolution (NORSE): Science and Experiment Plan," Technical Report, APL-UW TR 2102. Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, January 2022, 40 pp.

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13 Jan 2022

The NORSE DRI focuses on characterizing the key physical parameters and processes that govern the predictability of upper-ocean rapid evolution events occurring in the ice-free high latitudes. The goal is to identify which observable parameters are most influential in improving model predictability through inclusion by assimilation, and to field an autonomous observing network that optimizes sampling of high-priority fields. The overall goal is to demonstrate improvements in the predictability of the upper ocean physical fields associated with acoustic propagation over the course of the study. This Science Plan describes the specific objectives and implementation plan.

Landfast ice and coastal wave exposure in northern Alaska

Hošeková, L., E. Eidam, G. Panteleev, L. Rainville, W.E. Rogers, and J. Thomson, "Landfast ice and coastal wave exposure in northern Alaska," Geophys. Res. Lett., 48, doi:10.1029/2021GL095103, 2021.

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28 Nov 2021

Observations of ocean surface waves at three sites along the northern coast of Alaska show a strong coupling with seasonal sea ice patterns. In the winter, ice cover is complete, and waves are absent. In the spring and early summer, sea ice retreats regionally, but landfast ice persists near the coast. The landfast ice completely attenuates waves formed farther offshore in the open water, causing up to two-month delay in the onset of waves nearshore. In autumn, landfast ice begins to reform, though the wave attenuation is only partial due to lower ice thickness compared to spring. The annual cycle in the observations is reproduced by the ERA5 reanalysis product, but the product does not resolve landfast ice. The resulting ERA5 bias in coastal wave exposure can be corrected by applying a higher resolution ice mask, and this has a significant effect on the long-term trends inferred from ERA5.

More Publications


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