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Douglas G. Martinson, Ph.D.

Doherty Senior Research Scientist, Division of Ocean and Climate Physics

Adjunct Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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LTER Palmer Physical Oceanography


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Numerous modeling studies, observational-based analyses, and heuristic arguments suggest that the polar regions play a fundamental role in global climate. Conversely, such studies also suggest that changes in global climate may drive significant, and even amplified, change in the polar regions, thus making such regions ideal for the early detection of a global warming or other global climate variations. However, despite these suggestions, the nature, extent, mechanisms and sensitivities of any polar influences and responses are still remarkably ill-defined. My research has focused on the role of the oceans in climate, though I have specialized in polar oceans with a most recent focus on understanding how changes in the polar regions feedback to drive changes elsewhere in the world (as the warming of the equatorial Pacific ocean, i.e. El Niño, influences climate around the world).

My research strategy involves: (1) process studies aimed at elucidating our understanding of the fundamental processes controlling the climatically relevant polar characteristics, through complex interactions between the ocean, sea ice and atmospheric boundary layer; and, (2) global studies aimed at determining the distribution, mechanisms and sensitivities of the causal links between the polar and extra-polar regions. The purpose of this strategy, in the broadest sense, is to build a foundation with which we can confidently predict (perhaps statistically) the response of climatically important polar characteristics for given changes in the surface forcing (i.e., in global or regional climate). This will allow proper assessment of the impact of polar changes and related feedbacks on global climate, and, where the linkages are strongest, to predict the consequence of the polar changes on specific extra-polar regions sensitive to such change.

While I do have a number of other research interests (including paleoclimate studies which dominated my research activities in the first half of my career), those described above represent my primary efforts at present. Future plans will build from these, including expansion of climate studies to regions outside the polar regions, and working to couple physics with biogeochemical processes in order to more thoroughly evaluate the unique polar ecological responses to climate variability, and to evaluate the role of the ocean in the sequestration, transport and later release of atmospherically active gases, such as CO2. Some work along these lines has already been done, and I hope to expand this further in the future. I also will continue to develop specialized data analysis tools periodically, whenever a student or other colleague can share in the effort.