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2016 Colloquium : Submesoscale Processes: Mechanisms, Implications and new Frontiers


Place of the Conference: University of Liège - Place du 20-Août, 7 - 4000 Liège - Belgium

23rd - 27th May 2016

Terms of reference

A rich tapestry of oceanic processes is manifest at scales O(0.1-10 km), small enough for the constraints of the earth’s rotation and oceanic stratification to be overcome, but larger than that of three-dimensional turbulence. Rossby and Richardson numbers of O(1) lead to a range of dynamical instabilities that respond to surface forcing and boundary stresses, and interact with the mesoscale flow field, upper ocean turbulence, and near-inertial waves. These dynamics result in enhanced vertical velocities and mixing, as well as stratification, on time scales that range from a few days to the inertial period and intersect with the time scales of internal waves and tides.

Their diagnoses is facilitated through advances in high-resolution autonomous, in-situ and remotely sensed observations, modeling, and theoretical advances. Their implications are wide-ranging and include the transfer of energy across scales, lateral mixing and transport, restructuring of the upper ocean’s density and stratification, modulation of air-sea, ice-ocean, ocean-bathymetric interactions, the exchange of biogeochemical properties across the mixed layer base, vertical supply of nutrients for primary production, modulation of light exposure and growth rates for phytoplankton, subduction of surface water, and export of particulate organic carbon and oxygen from the surface mixed layer. The similarity of physical and biological time scales of phytoplankton growth heightens the relevance of submesoscale processes for the production and export of phytoplankton, and the structuring and diversity of oceanic ecosystems.

This colloquium aims to advance our collective understanding of submesoscale processes, their mechanistic functioning, relevance, and implications across a range of oceanic disciplines. Discussions will include observational, modeling and theoretical approaches for elucidating submesoscale phenomena. From this colloquium, its oral/poster presentations and scientific interactions, will emerge new cross-cutting themes for future research.

Topics that will be addressed include:

  • Dynamics of frontal and mixed-layer instabilities (forced and unforced) and their implications.
  • Impact of winds and surface forcing on the mixed layer and submesoscale instabilities.
  • Surface boundary layer turbulence and submesoscale instabilities, large-eddy simulation and observations of surface waves, Langmuir circulations. Their implications for air-sea coupling.
  • Surface signatures of submesoscale dynamics from remotely sensed surface topography, roughness, and ocean color.
  • Mesoscale-submesoscale interactions, energy cascades, impact of submesoscales on larger/smaller scales.
  • Physical-biological interactions — implications for biogeochemistry, productivity, export, ecosystem structure and diversity.
  • Freshwater in the oceans — implications of submesoscale processes for sea ice, river plumes and freshwater dispersal.
  • Coastal submesoscale dynamics — interaction with topography and the bottom boundary.
  • Wave-front/eddy interactions Interaction of internal waves and submesoscale fronts/ eddies.
  • Modelling issues related to multi-scale and multi-physics nature of the processes and in particular model nesting, unstructured grids and developments of new discretization schemes.


  • Alexander Barth, ULg, Belgium
  • Eric Deleesnijder, UCL, Belgium and TU Delft, The Netherlands
  • Amala Mahadevan, WHOI, USA
  • Ananda Pascual, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), Spain
  • Simon Ruiz, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), Spain
  • Charles Troupin, SOCIB, Spain

Scientific Committee

The scientific committee is composed by the organisers and by the following scientists:

  • Jean-Marie Beckers, ULg, Belgium
  • Jérôme Benveniste, ESA, Italy
  • Burkard Baschek, HZG, Germany
  • Paolo Callil, FURG, Brazil
  • Arthur Capet, OGS, Italy
  • Mariona Claret, McGill, Canada
  • Eric D’Asaro, U. Washington, USA
  • Baylor Fox-Kemper, Brown University, USA
  • Lee-Lueng Fu, JPL, USA
  • Johannes Karstensen, U. Kiel Geomar, Germany
  • Patrice Klein, LPO, France
  • Marina Lévy, LOCEAN/IPSL, France
  • Jen MacKinnon, UCSD, USA
  • Rosemary Morrow, LEGOS, France
  • Alberto Naveira-Garabato, NOC, UK
  • Antonio Olita, CNR, Italy
  • Jose Luis Pelegrí, ICM-CSIC, Spain
  • Sebastiaan Swart, CSIR, South Africa
  • Amit Tandon, UMass Dartmouth, USA
  • Jacques Verron, LGGE, France

Keynote speakers

  • Xavier Capet, LOCEAN, France The role of submesoscale in matter and energy transfers: recent progress and some enduring challenges
  • Lee-Lueng Fu, JPL, USA A next generation altimeter for mapping the sea surface variability: opportunities and challenges
  • Robert Hetland, TAMU, USA Instabilities in river plumes
  • Karen Heywood, UEA, UK High-definition Oceanography: Observing the submesoscale with ocean gliders
  • Marina Lévy, LOCEAN/IPSL, France Submesoscale control on marine ecosystems and diversity
  • Jim McWilliams, UCLA, USA Submesoscale Currents in the Ocean
  • Hans Bonekamp, EUMETSAT, Germany High-resolution ocean observations from Sentinel-3 and opportunities for their synergetic use
  • Leif Thomas, Stanford University, USA Energy exchange between near-inertial waves and balanced currents at ocean fronts



The preliminary program can be accessed here.

List of participants

The list of participants click here for a description


Special Issue

A special issue will be published in Ocean Dynamics with contributions from the authors participating in this colloquium.

Contributions from first author of an oral or poster presentation during the colloquium are welcome.

Send your manuscript directly on the Ocean Dynamics web site :

The full manuscript is due by 30th September 2016.




You can get here the announcement poster.



  • 24th January 2016: submission of travel support request.
  • 8th February 2016 (extended deadline): submission of abstracts  (late contributions may still be considered as a poster).
  • 26th February 2016: decision of the Scientific organizing committee of accepted abstracts.
  • 11th March 2016: the preliminary program will be made available.
  • 30th June 2016: send preliminary title and authors for manuscripts of the special issue to
  • 30th September 2016: submission deadline for manuscripts for publication in the special issue.


Jacques Nihoul Poster Award

We are pleased to announce the "Jacques Nihoul Poster Award" to master studends, PhD students and post-docs presenting a poster at the Liège colloquium.

Students and post-docs who wish to participate have to mention in the upper left corner of their poster "Poster Contest".

The selection will be made by the members of the scientific committee based on quality of the overall presentation and the scientific content.