Dr. Cornillon's research interests include satellite oceanography, laboratory modeling of rotating fluids and distributed
data system development.
Mesoscale circulation, air-sea interaction and ocean fronts are Dr. Cornillon's primary interests in satellite oceanography.
In each of these study areas he makes use of satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST), wind and/or sea surface height
In mesoscale circulation, Dr. Cornillon is interested in the relationship between the first mode planetary wave field in the
North Atlantic and in the Gulf Stream. Using SST and SSH fields, he and his students have characterized the first mode
planetary wave field of the subtropical North Atlantic for the period of 1985-1998. They are now looking at the relationship
between the amplitude of these waves and the variability in the path of the Gulf Stream. Also of interest, is the forcing of
the planetary waves. Until today, they are investigating the evolution of the wave field as it crosses the North Atlantic
in conjunction with the wind stress curl.
The wind stress curl field used to study the forcing of planetary waves is obtained from satellite-borne scatterometers that
actually measure the wind-induced friction at the sea surface rather than the wind itself. The wind-induced friction depends
on, among other things, the stability of the overlying atmosphere. The stability of the marine boundary layer depends in
turn on the air-sea temperature difference, a relationship which is not well understood in part because of the difficulty
in addressing it with in situ instrumentation. Dr. Cornillon and his colleagues have developed a technique to explore this
relationship using scatterometer-derived wind fields together with SST fields in the vicinity of Gulf Stream rings. Using
this technique, they have obtained a first cut at the relationship between the changes in wind speed as the wind crosses an
SST step, as well as time scales for this response and for the adjustment of the boundary layer to the SST step. They are
now investigating the effect on wind direction resulting from an SST step.
Dr. Cornillon's main area of research over the past 10 years has been related to ocean fronts. Dr. Cornillon and his students
have developed a sophisticated algorithm for the detection of ocean fronts from SST data and applied this algorithm to
global SST fields at 9.28 km resolution for the period of 1985-1996 and to 1 km fields of the western North Atlantic for
the same period. In addition to providing global and regional maps of frontal probability density, they have been able to
use the frontal data set to study the temporal evolution of fronts in the subtropical convergence of the North Atlantic.
Among the more interesting results is the approximate one-month scale for the formation of fronts in this region.
With NASA and URI funding, Dr. Cornillon has purchased a state-of-the-art rotating table, refurbished a rotating table that
has been in Physical Oceanography for the past 20 years and equipped a laboratory housing these tables. He made use of the
new rotating table in OCG 605 Dynamical Oceanography in the spring of 2001. In the summer of 2001, he began experiments
with the table to study the formation of fronts in a rotating fluid; a follow-on to the observation of open ocean fronts
made with satellite-derived SST fields. He hopes to continue this work over the coming year.
The majority of Dr. P. Cornillon's time for the past five years has been devoted to the development of a distributed data
system for oceanography. This system is based on client-server technology and makes use of http as the low level data
transport protocol. Although his group is the lead for this system, there is development efforts associated with the system
at about 10 institutions in the US and in France. Furthermore, there are currently in excess of 25 institutions in the US,
France, Korea and Australia serving data via the system. Finally, the system is being adopted by the climate change
community and elements of the meteorological community.
A Thematic Data Portal to Satellite-Derived Ocean Surface
Properties: Discovery and Access
Funded by NASA through March 31, 2008
A collaboration of six non-profit institutions and one NASA DAAC
led by the University of Rhode Island (URI) propose a five year
effort in research areas of interest to NASA. The
centerpiece of the proposed effort is the development of a Thematic
Data Portal to satellite-derived ocean surface properties. The
ocean surface data portal will consist of a suite of five thematic
data portals corresponding to sea surface temperature, surface winds,
sea surface topography, ocean color and surface precipitation,
all routinely measured from satellite-borne sensors.
Technology development activities are also proposed which extend the data
access protocol with which the data supported by the portal will be
accessed. These extensions will facilitate metrics reporting, and
will provide a flexible, community-driven mechanism to insure that
complete and consistent semantic information is available for diverse,
heterogeneous data repositories.
Collaborative Research II: Integrating Digital Libraries and Earth
Science Data Systems
Funded by the National Science Foundation through September 30, 2007
Although two different protocols for content-based access to Earth science data, OPeNDAP and OGIS' web
services suite, now exist, there is no comprehensive data discovery capability associated with either; this despite the
fact that OPeNDAP, the more heavily used of the two, is in broad use in Earth science communities associated with seasonal-
to-interannual variability, land cover studies, meteorology, oceanography and sun-earth connections. Nor, to the best of
our knowledge, does an integrated data location and access capability exist outside of the Earth sciences for highly
distributed, heavily populated systems of data products based on voluntary participation. To address this problem, we
propose integrating the Alexandria Digital Library (ADL), the world's leading digital library for geospatial and
georeferenced information, with OPeNDAP. Together, these technologies will allow a distributed network of independent
information providers to support a single uniform interface for information discovery, evaluation, verification, and
retrieval. In addition to addressing a specific problem that exists within the Earth sciences, the proposed research will
address the more general problem of interpreting the same query according to each of these modalities - digital libraries
and content-based access to data - so that a user (human or programmatic) will not have to make any conceptual leaps
OCG 501: Physical Oceanography (I, 3)
Basic course covering physical properties of seawater, heat budget, distribution of variables,
dynamics, water masses and general circulation, waves and tides. (Lec. 3) Pre: PHY 213 and MTH 141.
URI/GSO Personal Profile
for Prof. Cornillon
Physical Oceanography and Remote Sensing
Graduate School of Oceanography
University of Rhode Island
Peter C. Cornillon
Graduate School of Oceanography
University of Rhode Island
South Ferry Road
Narragansett, RI 02882