Brian D. May - Research

My research program focuses on the dynamics of mixing processes in lakes and oceans. I am interested in vertical mixing processes including shear-driven turbulence, buoyancy-driven convection and thermohaline double diffusion. I am also interested in lateral mixing processes including isopycnal mixing, baroclinic instability, and thermohaline intrusions.

  • Turbulent Mixing

    I have been involved in an observational program investigating the dynamics of turbulent mixing in Lake Superior. I have been making measurements of turbulence using an instrument called SCAMP, which measures millimeter-scale fluctuations of temperature in the water column. Turbulent properties such as the turbulent dissipation rate and vertical eddy diffusivity are inferred from the temperature measurements. The goals of the work include: 1) characterizing the spatial and temporal distribution of mixing in the lake, 2) determining the dependence of the mixing on things such as wind forcing, stratification and topography, and 3) determining the effects of the mixing on things such as nutrient supply, transport of pollution, etc.

  • Thermohaline Intrusions

    I also have ongoing projects investigating the dynamics of thermohaline intrusions in the ocean. Intrusions are observed as fluctuations (i.e., inversions) in profiles of temperature and salinity and are formed by lateral motions across ocean fronts. Intrusions are important because they mix tracers (e.g., heat, salt, nutrients, contaminants) between different water masses. I have been particularly interested in the dynamics of thermohaline intrusions in baroclinic ocean fronts, which have horizontal density gradients as well as horizontal temperature and salinity gradients. I investigate the dynamics of intrusions both by using theoretical models of the process and by analysing temperature and salinity data obtained with CTDs in ocean frontal zones. Particular regions of interest include Mediterranean salt lenses and the Arctic Ocean.


Conference Presentations