Shirley Leung

2012 Research Experience for Undergrads

Ocean heat uptake and surface warming variations during future climate change

Shirley LeungThis summer I got to spend nine weeks in the beautiful city of Seattle (where it only rained less than a handful of times) as a JISAO intern at the University of Washington. Throughout this time, I had the privilege of learning firsthand how to conduct research in physical oceanography from an incredible group of faculty, research engineers, and graduate students.

My mentor, LuAnne Thompson, and her group use both numerical and analytical models to explore the role of the ocean in heat storage under transient, non-equilibrium conditions. It had already been shown that different regions of the ocean would warm and take up heat at different rates with climate change, due to regional differences in the rate of heat exchange between the surface and deep oceans. However, we wanted to better understand where in the water column heat taken in up different parts of the ocean would be stored, as well as how differences in upwelling and downwelling in each ocean region would affect total heat storage. In order to help with this research, I used a simple one-dimensional advection-diffusion model to simulate heat uptake in different regions of the ocean.

Through my work on this project, I was able to greatly improve many of my computer skills including my MATLAB, Linux, and LaTex skills, among others. I also got to learn a great deal about numerical modeling, differential equations, and stability analysis. Many mathematical concepts that I used to think were extremely difficult to grasp became second nature to me. Now I can truly appreciate my math classes much more because I know that those skills can really come in handy!

Shirley working on equation on white boardI also got to meet a lot of incredible people throughout my time in Seattle, from faculty members who head international research efforts in UW’s Oceanography Department to famous scientists working at the nearby NOAA office, PMEL. I couldn’t help but fall even more in love with science, oceanography, and research after meeting all of these people who are so passionate about what they do. All of us interns also had the opportunity to tour many different oceanography labs at NOAA and UW, including the geophysical fluid dynamics lab, ARGO float fabrication labs, and sea glider fabrication labs. It was really exciting to get to see in person how these ingenious instruments are made and used!

All in all, I had an incredibly fun and productive summer, and would like to thank LuAnne Thompson, JISAO, and UW’s Department of Oceanography for this amazing opportunity.



Shirley's research poster

Click on poster for full-size image [PDF]