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Isaac Ginis
Professor of Oceanography
Physical oceanography
Areas of Expertise
Air-sea exchange and heat transport, Air-Sea interaction, Climate change, Coastal erosion, Hurricane, Hurricane intensity, Numerical modeling, Numerical modeling of tropical cyclones, Ocean policy and education, Ocean-atmosphere dynamic systems, Science communication, Tropical cyclone intensity
Dr. Isaac Ginis remembers vividly his first visit to Rhode Island when he was being considered for an appointment to the Graduate School of Oceanography. The scientist, a native of Russia, had brought his family to the USA in 1990 and took a job as visiting professor at Princeton when, three years later, he heard about an opening at GSO. Faculty members interviewed him at the Coast Guard House restaurant in Narragansett.

It was a picturesque early fall day, he recalls, in an equally picturesque setting. It was also quite fitting because the Coast Guard House has a long history of being clobbered by hurricanes and today, hurricanes are Ginis’ main line of research.

Ginis does not fly into hurricanes on special aircraft nor does he ride them out on research ships. Rather he uses his penchant for mathematics and generates mathematical models on computers, work that has resulted in a sea-change for the weather bureau in how it determines hurricane intensity.

His interest in hurricanes (typhoons in the Pacific) started when he was an undergraduate studying math in Russia. A visiting scientist gave a talk on a massive Russian research project in the Pacific involving four research ships criss-crossing the ocean for months, tracking how typhoons interact with the ocean. Such an expensive undertaking would never be repeated, the scientist said but he suggested that there is much to be learned about the ocean/atmosphere connection and that mathematical modeling might be a way to analyze it in a less costly manner.

One of the things learned was that when severe storms pass over the ocean, they extract heat causing a so-called “cold wave.”

Ginis decided to go to graduate school to study the physics of the ocean and the atmosphere.

He started working on mathematical modeling projects but in Russia the process was slow—the computers at that time were from the punched-card era. Once he was accepted at Princeton, things changed dramatically because he had access to a super computer there and, now, continuing the work at GSO, he still has access to that computer.

At URI he continued the experimental approaches and found that by using the coupling modeling technique he was able to increase the accuracy of hurricane intensity predictions.

“At that time I thought it was significant to have a practical application. I gave a talk in Miami and the reaction was quite positive however they said it was not enough to do a simulation on a few storms. They wanted me to do an entire season,” said Ginis. It took some doing but he was able to land a NOAA grant that enabled him to hire a post doc and they were able to do the modeling over an entire season the next year. Their experiment demonstrated that the coupling modeling was 25 percent more accurate than the modeling that was not coupled to the ocean.

The following year, the weather service announced it would run Ginis’ modeling in parallel to their operational model and that was so successful that in 2001 the new procedure was adopted for national weather hurricane predictions.

Ginis says the biggest challenge in collecting data is getting real ocean conditions into the computers and for that they rely largely on satellites some of which can measure sea surface height which actually has a relation to the depth of the ocean.

Hurricanes can get stronger in the Carribean because of the depth but in the Gulf of Mexico, an unusual situation exists. The gulf is much shallower than the Caribbean and with the warmer water nearer the surface, hurricanes usually diminish in intensity, says Ginis, “but not always.”

The gulf has a so-called “loop current” that swings clockwise, he explains, and when Hurricane Katrina came into the gulf the loop current was at its northernmost swing, thus fueling the storm into a Category 5. “Katrina was actually the poster child for ocean coupling,” says Ginis.

While Ginis’ work has led to improved hurricane predictions, his work is far from over. Next on the list is to add to the modeling a third coupling—wave height that may boost prediction accuracy even more. The height of waves may contribute to a storm’s intensity, he notes.

One of the mysteries when it comes to such storms is that world-wide there are about 90 cyclone-type storms every year. Sometimes there are more in the Pacific than the Atlantic and vice versa but the total is always around 90.

With climate change, scientists like Ginis are interested in whether that total number will change. There may be fewer storms but the intensity might increase, he suggests.

While the world is the stage for hurricane research, Ginis has a local role as well. GSO is allied with a memorandum of understanding with the state Emergency Management Agency to help the state’s leaders with outreach information and preparation recommendations for impacts of tropical cyclones.
Office Location
Watkins 316
Ph.D. Geophysics, Institute of Experimental Meteorology, Obninsk, Russia 1986
B.S. Mathematics, Kabardino-Balkarian State University, Nalchik, Russia 1977
My research interests focus on structure, variability and dynamics of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system from small to large space and time scales. I do mathematical modeling of those physical processes, which govern the behavior of the atmosphere and the oceans using theoretical and computer simulation methods. I am also interested in the communication of science to the media, policymakers and public through teaching (HPR309 with Judith Swift), Metcalf Institute and numerous public lectures.

My currently funded projects include:
1. Tropical cyclone-ocean interactions (NOAA, Navy)
2. Ocean model initialization and data assimilation for TC predictions (NOAA, Navy)
3. Modeling of surfaces waves in hurricane conditions and their effects on air-sea interactions (NOAA, Navy, in collaboration with Tetsu Hara)
4. Upper-ocean turbulent mixing in hurricane conditions (NSF, in collaboration with Tetsu Hara)
5. Numerical investigation of the atmospheric boundary layer in tropical cyclones (ONR)
6. Cumulative impact of tropical cyclones on the ocean and climate (WeatherPredict Consulting, in collaboration with Lew Rothstein)
7. Climate Change Collaborative (Sea Grant, in collaboration with Pam Rubinoff and others)

For more than 10 years my research group (currently 4 graduate students, 1 research associate, 1 marine research scientist) has been responsible for maintaining and improving the ocean components of the tropical cyclone models (HWRF, GFDL, GFDN) that are used by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center for operational forecasting in all ocean basins. We are actively involved in NOAA’s Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program (www.hfip.org) and Joint Hurricane Testbed (www.nhc.noaa.gov/jht). The primary goal of these programs is to improve the accuracy and reliability of hurricane forecasts in the U.S.
I have been recently the lead PI on a 3-year project funded by the National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP) to develop a physically based and computationally efficient coupling at the air-sea interface for use in the next generation of research and operational coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean-land tropical cyclone models. Our research team included scientists from academia, government organizations and private sector.
I have been actively involved in the development of the educational, multi-disciplinary website Hurricanes: Science and Society in collaboration with Gail Scowcroft and her team. This website has become a classroom tool for science educators nationwide. It plays an important role in the effort to educate both students and adults about the science and impacts of hurricanes and the importance of pre-hurricane planning and mitigation.
URI and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency are in the process of signing an MOU to coordinate their activities related to hurricanes and disasters. Under this agreement, my research group will offer expertise and forecasting data to enhance statewide emergency planning before, during and after hurricane events and assist RIEMA in their public outreach effort.
OCG 593 - Numerical Methods for Environmental Modeling, HPR 309 - The Communication of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Phenomena (with Judith Swift)
I’ve been one of the lead developers and science advisors of the most comprehensive educational internet resources on hurricanes, Hurricanes: Science and Society (hurricanescience.org). The HSS website provides information on the science of hurricanes, methods of observing hurricanes, modeling and forecasting of hurricanes, how hurricanes impact society, and how people and communities can prepare for and mitigate the impacts of hurricanes. I am involved in the interdisciplinary research project "RI Sea Grant Climate Change Collaborative” linking natural, behavioral, and communication sciences to enhance coastal community well-being in the face of climate change. This project brings together researchers in the physical sciences, behavior sciences, communication arts, and coastal management in Rhode Island, www.RIClimateChange.org guides people through the reality of climate change: the environmental changes we are already seeing, the impacts to our economy and the social fabric of our communities, and actions people can take to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
Xuanyu Chen (PhD present, with Prof. Hara), Austen Blair (MS present, with Prof. Hara), Kun Gao (PhD 2015), Brandon Reichl (PhD 2015, with Prof. Hara), Michael Bueti (PhD 2014, with Prof. Rothstein), Colin Hughes (MS 2013), Melissa Kaufman (MS 2012), Seunghoun Lee (PhD 2011), Lou Licate (MS 2010), Zhitao Yu (PhD 2010), Richard Yablonsky (PhD 2009), Yalin Fan (PhD 2008), Minoru Kadota (MS 2003), Evan Robertson (MS 2002), Sergey Frolov (PhD 2001)
* indicates students and postdocs as co-authors

*Reichl, B. G., D. Wang, T. Hara, I. Ginis and T. Kukulka, 2016: Langmuir Turbulence Parameterization in Tropical Cyclone Conditions. Langmuir Turbulence Parameterization in Tropical Cyclone Conditions. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 46, 863-886.

*Gao, K. and I. Ginis, 2016: On the Equilibrium-State Roll Vortices and Their Effects in the Hurricane Boundary Layer. J. Atmos. Sci., 73, 1205-1221.

*Rabe T. J, T. Kukulka, I. Ginis, T. Hara, B. Reichl, E. D'Asaro, R. Harcourt, P. Sullivan, 2015: Langmuir turbulence under Hurricane Gustav (2008), J. Phys. Oceangr, 45, 657-677

*Yablonsky, R. M., I. Ginis, B. Thomas, V. Tallapragada, D. Sheinin, and L. Bernardet, 2015: Description and analysis of the ocean component of NOAA's operational Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) Model. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 32, 144–163.

*Yablonsky, R. M., I. Ginis, B. Thomas, 2015: Ocean modeling with flexible initialization for improved coupled tropical cyclone-ocean prediction, Environmental Modelling & Software, 67, 26-30.

Soloviev, A.V., R. Lukas, M. Donelan, B.K. Haus, and I. Ginis, 2014: The air-sea interface and surface stress under tropical cyclones. Nature Scientific Reports. 4, 5306; DOI:10.1038/ srep05306.

*Bueti, M.R., I. Ginis, L.M. Rothstein and S.M. Griffies, 2014: Tropical cyclone-induced thermocline warming and its regional and global impacts. J. Climate, 27, 6978-6999.

*Gao, K. and I. Ginis, 2014: On the generation of roll vortices due to the inflection point instability of the hurricane boundary layer flow. J. Atmos. Sci., 71, 4292-4307.

*Reichl, B. G., T. Hara, and I. Ginis, 2014: Sea state dependence of the wind stress over the ocean under hurricane winds. J. Geophys. Res., 119, 30-51.

*Yablonsky, R.M., and I. Ginis, 2013: Impact of a warm ocean eddy's circulation on hurricane-induced sea surface cooling with implications for hurricane intensity. Mon. Wea. Rev., 141, 997-1021.

Rosenfeld D., Woodley W.L., A. Khain, W.R. Cotton, G. Carrio, I. Ginis, and J.H. Golden, 2012: Aerosol effects on microstructure and intensity of tropical cyclones, Bull. Amer. Met. Soc. 987-1001.

Sutyrin, G.G. and I. Ginis, 2012: Impact of tropical cyclones on a baroclinic jet in the ocean. Marine Hydrophys. J., 5, 44-50.

*Gall, J. S., I. Ginis, S.-J. Lin, and T. P. Marchok, 2011: Experimental tropical cyclone prediction using the GFDL 25km resolution Global Atmospheric Model. Wea. Forecasting, 26, 10.1175/WAF-D-10-05015.1

Cotton, W. R., W. L. Woodley, I. Ginis, J. H. Golden, A. Khain, and D. Rosenfeld, 2011: The rise and fall of HAMP. J. Wea. Modif., 43, 88-95

*Fan, Y., I. Ginis, and T. Hara, 2010: Momentum flux budget across air-sea interface under uniform and tropical cyclones winds. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 40, 2221-2242.

*Yablonsky, R. M., and I. Ginis, 2009: Limitation of one-dimensional ocean models for coupled hurricane-ocean model forecasts. Mon. Wea. Rev., 137, 4410-4419.

*Fan, Y., I. Ginis, T. Hara, C. W. Wright, and E. Walsh, 2009: Numerical simulations and observations of surface wave fields under an extreme tropical cyclone. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 39, 2097-2116.

*Fan, Y., I. Ginis, and T. Hara, 2009: The effect of wind-wave-current interaction on air-sea momentum fluxes and ocean response in tropical cyclones. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 39, 1019-1034.

Goni, G., M. Demaria, J. Knaff, C. Sampson, I. Ginis, F. Bringas, A. Mavume, C. Lauer, I.-I. Lin, M. M. Ali, P. Sandery, S. Ramos-Buarque, K. Kang, A. Mehra, E. Chassignet, and G. Halliwell, 2009: Applications of satellite-derived ocean measurements to tropical cyclone intensity forecasting. Oceanogr., 22, 190-197.

*Moon, I.-J., I. Ginis, and T. Hara, 2008: Impact of reduced drag coefficient on ocean wave modeling under hurricane conditions. Mon. Wea. Rev. 136, 1217-1223.

*Yablonsky, R.M. and I. Ginis, 2008: Improving the initialization of coupled hurricane-ocean models by assimilating mesoscale oceanic features. Mon. Wea. Rev. 136, 2592-2607.

*Moon, I.-J., I. Ginis, and T. Hara, 2007: Physics-based parameterization of air-sea momentum flux at high wind speed and its impact on hurricane intensity prediction. Mon. Wea. Rev. 135, 2869-2878.

Bender, M.A., I. Ginis, R. Tuleya, B. Thomas, T. Marchok, 2007: The operational GFDL Coupled Hurricane-Ocean Prediction System and summary of its performance. Mon. Wea. Rev. 135, 3965-3989.
2015 Ginis I. and M. Bueti: Global and regional variability of tropical cyclone-induced thermocline warming, 5th International Summit on Hurricanes and Climate Change, June 6-14 2015, Crete, Greece. (Invited).

2015 Ginis I., B. Thomas, M. Bender, V. Tallapragada: Improving the Ocean Component of the Operational HWRF and GFDN/GFDN Hurricane Models. Tropical Cyclone Research Forum (TCRF)/69th IHC, March 2-5 2015, Jacksonville, FL.

2015 Ginis I., M. A. Bender, B. Thomas, M. J. Morin, V. Tallapragada, and A. V. Soloviev:
A new drag coefficient formulation and its impact on the GFDL and HWRF hurricane model predictions. 95th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, January 04 - 08, Phoenix, AZ.

2014 Ginis I., M. Bueti, L. Rothstein, S. Griffies: Global perspectives on tropical cyclone-ocean interaction. Ocean Sciences Meeting, 23-28 February, Hawaii.

2014 Ginis I., R. Yablonsky, B. Thomas, V.Tallapragada. Improving HWRF and GFDL/GFDN Hurricane Models by Advancing the Air-Sea Interaction Components. Tropical Cyclone Research Forum (TCRF)/68th IHC, NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction College Park, MD.

2014 Ginis I., B. Reichl, T. Hara, and B. Thomas: Advancing hurricane prediction models through enhanced physics of the air-sea-wave coupling. 31st Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, March 30 - April 04, San Diego, CA.

2013 Ginis I., B. Thomas, V. Tallapragada, H. Tolman, and M. Bender: Advancing HWRF and GFDL/GFDN Prediction Systems through New and Enhanced Physics of the Air-Sea-Wave Coupling Planned for 2013. 67th Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference/Tropical Cyclone Research Forum. March 5 – 7, NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction College Park, MD.

2013 Ginis, I.: Cumulative effect of tropical cyclones on ocean heat content and circulation. 4th International Summit on Hurricanes and Climate Change, June 13-18, Kos, Greece. (invited)

2012 Ginis, I., T. Hara, B. Thomas, B. Reichl, J. Bao, and C. Fairall: Advanced coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean modeling for improving tropical cyclone prediction models. 30th Conf. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, 15-20 April, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

2011 Ginis, I.: Opportunities and challenges in designing next generation tropical cyclone-ocean coupled models, 3rd International Summit on Hurricanes and Climate Change, 27 June – 2 July, Rhodes, Greece. (Invited)

2011 Ginis I. and S. Lee: Tropical cyclone-ocean interaction in oceanic front regions, International Workshop on Tropical Cyclone-Ocean Interaction in the Northwest Pacific, 11-13 May, Jeju, Korea. (Invited)

2010 Ginis I.: Numerical modeling of air-sea interaction in tropical cyclones, 17th Conference on Air Sea Interaction, 26 - 30 September, Annapolis, MD. (Invited)

2010 Ginis, I, Y. Fan, T. Hara, B. Thomas, J. -W. Bao, and L. Bianco: Developing coupled wind-wave-current interaction framework with sea spray effects for hurricanes models. 29th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, 10–14 May 2010, Tucson, AZ.

2010 Ginis I., Y. Fan, T. Hara, B. Thomas: Coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean strategies for tropical cyclone modeling and forecasting. 2010 Ocean Sciences Meeting, 22-26 February, Portland, Oregon. (Invited)
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