AIRS Research Areas

Air-Sea Exchange

  • Gas and Heat
  • Biogeochemical Cycling
  • Rainfall

Coastal Region

  • Rivers
  • Tidal Flats
  • Nearshore


  • Climate Change
  • Ocean Circulation
  • Atmospheric Rolls
  • Hurricanes


  • Microwave
  • Infrared
  • Laser
  • Hydrophone
  • Dissolved Gas


  • Wave Breaking
  • Internal Waves

Educational Opportunities

Graduate and undergraduate students who wish to study the intersection of atmospheric sciences, oceanography, and engineering at the Applied Physics Laboratory may work with AIRS advisors who have joint apointments in UW academic departments.  More >>

Graduate student Michael Schwendeman worked with advisor Jim Thomson to track and measure breaking waves in the North Pacific during an expedition to Ocean Station Papa. Mike's blog chronicled the research cruise.

What We Do

The Air-Sea Interaction and Remote Sensing (AIRS) Department is a diverse group of scientists, engineers, technical support staff, and students that conducts research focused on the air-sea interface by using a wide variety of remote sensing techniques.

Our interests range from the global scale of climate change and ocean circulation to the smallest scales of the physics of air-sea heat and gas exchange.

Our remote sensing tools also span a wide range of scales—from satellite remote sensing, to field experiments using surface and airborne platforms, and to laboratory experiments in wave tanks. Remote sensing instruments used include electro-optical sensors (microwave, infrared, and laser) and acoustic sensors (sonars and hydrophones).

Department Chair
Air-Sea Interaction and
Remote Sensing

SWIFT Tests in Arctic Waters

Graduate student researcher Seth Zippel tests SWIFT (Surface Wave Instrument Float with Tracking) performance in the Arctic in advance of planned missions to be conducted in summer 2014 during the Marginal Ice Zone experiments.  More >>


Depth, or bathymetry, is a key variable to understand how to navigate safely in a shallow water environment and it is also key to predicting the currents and waves. DARLA will help determine the extent to which data assimilation models, that are initialized and constrained with remote sensing and in situ measurements, can infer bathymetry.  More >>

Marginal Ice Zone Program

An integrated program of observations and numerical simulations will focus on understanding ice–ocean–atmosphere dynamics in and around the MIZ, with particular emphasis on quantifying changes associated with decreasing ice cover. The MIZ measurement program will employ a novel mix of autonomous technologies (ice-based instrumentation, floats, drifters, and gliders) to characterize the processes that govern Beaufort Sea MIZ evolution from initial breakup and MIZ formation though the course of the summertime sea ice retreat.  More >>

Sea State and Boundary Layer Physics of the Emerging Arctic Ocean

This ONR Departmental Research Initiative is in response to the observed decline in Arctic sea ice extent. The U.S. Navy has a renewed interest in understanding and predicting the environment in this region, including a desire to forecast the presence or absence of sea ice at a variety of lead times.  More >>

Turbulence Generated by Tides in the Canal de Chacao, Chile

At a proposed tidal energy conversion site in southern Chile, APL-UW researchers measured the magnitude and scales of turbulence — to aid the design of turbines for the site and to understand the fundamental dynamics of flows through the channel.  More >>

In the News

Sensor-equipped ferry to monitor Admiralty Inlet, gateway to Puget Sound

Environmental Monitor,

30 Jun 2014

Newly installed acoustic sensors on two Washington ferries will help monitor water circulation in Puget Sound. Scientists with the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington will manage the monitoring effort that relies on acoustic doppler current profilers to measure a host of environmental parameters.

Puget Sound monitoring

The Impact @ TVW (video),

18 Jun 2014

The state ferry system is working with scientists to learn more about the water in Puget Sound. Find out about a new high-tech water monitoring device aboard the ferries.

Ferries for science: Instrument will monitor flow in Puget Sound

UW News and Information,

16 Jun 2014

It%u2019s not just vacationers who will be traveling on the ferries between Port Townsend and Coupeville this summer. A new partnership among the Washington Department of Ecology, the University of Washington and other groups is riding on Washington State Ferries to improve understanding of water circulation in Puget Sound.

Recent Papers

Rusch, C., J. Thomson, S. Zippel, and M. Schwendeman, "Video recognition of breaking waves," Proc., OCEANS'14, 14-19 September, St. John's, Newfoundland (MTS/IEEE, 2014).

15 Jul 2014

Durgesh, V., J. Thomson, M. Richmond, and B. Polagye, "Noise correction of turbulent spectra obtained from acoustic Doppler velocimeters," Flow Meas. Instrum., 37, 29-41, doi:10.1016/j.flowmeasinst.2014.03.001, 2014.

1 Jun 2014, Link

Thomson, J., and W.E. Rogers, "Swell and sea in the emerging Arctic Ocean," Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 3136-3140, doi:10.1002/2014GL059983, 2014.

16 May 2014, Link