Physical Oceanography

The Physical Oceanography Program is interested in receiving research planning letters on topics that will lead to improved observation and forecasting of ocean circulation and stratification on naval relevant time and length scales. The program strongly encourages hypothesis-based research aimed at improving model formulation and parameterizations. We are also interested in advancing autonomous methods of ocean sampling, numerical modeling capabilities, and data assimilation techniques.

Areas of interest include:

  • mesoscale and submesoscale dynamics and variability,
  • processes that govern ocean mixing, and
  • air-sea interaction on fine spatial and temporal scales.

We regularly support projects that integrate across other ONR programs (e.g., Ocean Acoustics and Marine Meteorology and Space). Planning letter submissions that span multiple disciplinary fields can be simultaneously submitted to the relevant programs.

The Physical Oceanography Program fully embraces the education of the next generation of scientists and the Navy’s commitment to fostering science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The Early Student Support Program directly supports student involvement in Physical Oceanography Program efforts. We select only a few ESS new starts each year. Additionally, the DoD National Defense and Engineering Graduate Program supports up to three years of graduate study for U.S. citizens whose research aligns with the Department of Defense’s Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs).

Research Concentration Areas

The Physical Oceanography Program is always interested in receiving planning letters for any research that addresses the focus areas above, which are supported by the program’s core funding. Currently, the program is particularly interested in research that addresses the following topics:

  • Lagrangian dynamics and transport at the submesoscale and smaller;
  • process that govern variation in mixed layer properties and upper ocean stratification, including instability, frontogenesis, air-sea exchange, and turbulent mixing; and
  • novel uses of existing or emerging remote, autonomous or in-situ instruments, and the use of such data to improve ocean state predictions.

Research Challenges and Opportunities

While scientific quality is always the most important factor of the review process, an additional significant criterion is the priority of the research topic, which is based on a number of factors including the current funding profile of the overall Physical Oceanography Program. If we have funded or are currently funding a number of significant efforts in a particular research area, the addition of more work on that topic may be of lower priority than supporting new research efforts on a topic in which we have few funded projects. The Physical Oceanography Program priorities are represented by the ongoing or upcoming Departmental Research Initiatives (DRIs). Thus, prospective investigators are encouraged to review the summaries of completed and current Departmental Research Initiatives (DRIs):

Northern Ocean Rapid Surface Evolution, FY21-FY24

Island Arc Turbulent Eddy Regional Exchange, FY21-FY25

Arabian Sea Transition Layer (ASTraL), FY23-FY27

These topics form the core of the program focus and investment. Once a DRI has begun, it is rare to encourage additional proposals in those areas.

Planning letters for research to be supported by the 322PO core program beginning in the next fiscal year should be prepared according to these guidelines and submitted no later than March 15. The purpose of planning letters is to allow prospective investigators to submit a brief description of their scientific ideas so that we may evaluate them and offer programmatic and technical feedback before time is invested in writing a full proposal. This allows us to give you some indication of the likely success of a full proposal based on program interests and priorities. It is anticipated that full proposals would be invited in mid-April and proposals would be submitted no later than June 15. Award recommendations are to be made before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Proposals should be submitted to the ONR Long Range Broad Agency Announcement following solicitation guidelines.

Program Contact Information

Name: Dr. Scott Harper

Title: Program Officer

Department: Code 322

Email for Questions:

Name: Dr. Louis St Laurent

Title: Program Officer

Department: Code 322

Email for Questions:

Name: Dr. Emily Shroyer

Title: Program Officer

Department: Code 322

Email for Questions:

How to Submit

For detailed application and submission information for this research topic, please see our Funding Opportunities page and refer to broad agency announcement (BAA) No. N00014-22-S-B001.

  • Contracts: All white papers and full proposals for contracts must be submitted through FedConnect; instructions are included in the BAA.
  • Grants: All white papers for grants must be submitted through FedConnect, and full proposals for grants must be submitted through; instructions are included in the BAA.

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