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Leif Thomas

Leif  Thomas
Title:Assistant Professor
Primary Affiliation:Department of Environmental Earth System Science
Other Affiliations:Earth Systems, E-IPER
Office Location:Other  Y2E2 Bldg Rm 181
Research Group:Ocean circulation and dynamics
Phone:650-721-1140
E-mail:leift@stanford.edu

Research

My research interests center on the physics of the ocean circulation. Specifically, I seek to understand the dynamics of highly energetic, time-variable flows such as ocean fronts, vortices, and eddies. Such flows efficiently exchange heat, salt, nutrients, and dissolved gases between the surface of the ocean and the ocean interior and hence play an important role in the Earth's climate and the oceanic sequestration of carbon. I use theory, computer modeling, and field observations to characterize the fundamental physics of the ocean circulation with the goal of improving the oceanic component of computer models used to predict future climate change.

Teaching

I teach a graduate-level course in geophysical fluid dynamics and an introductory-level course on atmosphere, ocean, and climate dynamics, with emphasis on the large-scale circulation of the atmosphere and the ocean. I also co-teach a course on Earth System Dynamics. In the future, I plan to offer courses on upper-ocean processes and numerical modeling of the ocean circulation at regional and large-scales.

Professional Activities

Assistant Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2005-08); invited speaker, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Summer Program, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2007); member of the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society; session co-chair AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting, Eddies, Fronts and Sub-Mesoscale Processes In The Upper Ocean (2008); member of the NSF funded Climate Process Team on Eddy Mixed Layer Interactions; reviewer for NSF, NOAA and several scientific journals

Education

  • 2003 | Ph. D. Physical Oceanography University of Washington
  • 1997 | B.S. Physics, College of Creative Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara

Professional Experience

  • 2008 - Present | Assistant Professor of Environmental Earth System Science Stanford University
  • 2005 - 2008 | Assistant Scientist Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • 2004 - 2005 | Postdoctoral Research Associate School of Oceanography and Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington
  • 1997 - 2003 | Research Assistant School of Oceanography, University of Washington
  • 1995 - 1997 | Undergraduate Research Assistant Center for Nonlinear Science, Department of Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara

Honors & Awards

  • 2013 | Nicholas P. Fofonoff Award, American Meteorological Society
  • 2011 | Journal of Physical Oceanography Editor's Award
  • 2008 - Present | Terman Fellow, Stanford University
  • 2003 | Invited participant, Physical Oceanography Dissertation Symposium (PODS II)
  • 1997 | Arnold T. Nordsieck Memorial Prize for outstanding undergraduate research, Department of Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • 1997 | Highest Honors, University California Santa Barbara

University Service

  • 2013 | Earth Systems Oceans Track Revision Committee
  • 2013 - Present | E-IPER PhD thesis committees: Dan Reineman
  • 2012 | Cryospheric scientist billet proposal to the Earth Sciences Council
  • 2012 - Present | Earth Systems Executive Committee
  • 2012 | Organizer, Fluid Mechanics Seminar Series, Stanford (Spring Quarter)
  • 2011 | Lab demo presentation to Summer Research Program for Teachers
  • 2010 - Present | EESS Graduate Admissions Committee
  • 2010 - Present | CEE PhD thesis committees: Dujuan Kang, Sean Vitousek, Ryan Walter
  • 2009 - Present | Earth Systems Program Committee of the Whole
  • 2009 - Present | Chair at 13 PhD Defenses
  • 2008 - 2009 | SES Faculty Search Committee for Marine Chemist/Geochemist
  • 2008 - 2009 | EESS Departmental Seminar Organizer
  • 2008 - Present | EESS PhD thesis committees: Sudeshna Pabi, Matt Long, Molly Palmer, Benjamin Saenz, Justine Kimball, Chris Skinner, Zach Brown, Deepti Singh, Dave Koweek, Daniel Swain, Kate Lowry

Professional Activities

  • 2013 | Host, Stanford's Summer Research Program for Teachers
  • 2013 | Gordon Research Conference on Coastal Ocean Circulation (Invited Speaker)
  • 2013 | Ocean Turbulence Conference, Santa Fe (Invited Speaker)
  • 2013 | Physical Oceanography Seminar Series, OSU (Invited)
  • 2013 | Fluid Mechanics Seminar, Stanford (Invited)
  • 2013 | Climate Seminar, Harvard University (Invited)
  • 2013 | Geology & Geophysics Department Colloquium, Yale University (Invited)
  • 2013 | Program Chair, 19th Conference on Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics, Providence
  • 2013 | LatMix meeting organizer, Stanford University
  • 2012 | Invited Speaker, AGU Fall Meeting, Session on The Fluid Dynamics of Planets and Stars
  • 2012 | Convener, AGU Fall Meeting Session on Physics and Biogeochemistry of Submesoscale Processes
  • 2012 | Invited participant, Workshop on Inertial Oscillation Physics and Lagrangian Methods
  • 2012 | Invited presenter, US CLIVAR Summit
  • 2012 | Participant, CLIMODE workshop, WHOI
  • 2012 | LATMIX research cruise (Feb 22-Mar 17)
  • 2012 | Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography Seminar Series, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Invited)
  • 2011 | Climate and Global Dynamics Seminar Series, NCAR (Invited)
  • 2011 | Workshop on Balance, Boundaries and Mixing in the Climate Problem, Centre de Recherches Mathematiques, Montreal (Invited)
  • 2011 - 2014 | Committee on Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics, American Meteorological Society Scientific and Technological Activities Commission
  • 2011 | Invited Speaker, Fluid Mechanics Seminar, Stanford
  • 2011 | Participant, ONR Lateral Mixing DRI Planning Meeting, UCLA
  • 2010 - 2012 | Guest Editor Special Issue on Subtropical Mode Water in the North Atlantic Ocean, Deep Sea Research II 
  • 2010 | Invited Speaker, Below the Rossby Radius: Workshop on Small-Scale Variability in the General Circulation of the Atmosphere and Oceans, University of Hamburg
  • 2010 | Invited Speaker, Conference on "The next big climate Challenge: Influence of meso- and submesoscale ocean dynamics on the global carbon cycle and marine ecosystems", France
  • 2010 | Co-convener AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting Session on Biological-Physical Interactions at Submesoscales
  • 2010 | Co-chair AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting Session on "Submesoscales: From Space to the Ocean Interior"
  • 2010 | Invited Speaker, Geophysics Dept Seminar, Stanford
  • 2009 | Invited Speaker, Tenth Annual CAOS Workshop on "Oceanography at the observational and modeling frontier: Submesoscale Dynamics", NYU
  • 2009 | Invited Speaker, Ocean Sciences Dept., UCSC
  • 2009 | Invited Speaker, School of Earth Sciences Advisory Board, Stanford
  • 2009 | Participant, ONR Symposium, Chicago
  • 2009 | Co-lecturer, School of Engineering EDay:PlanIt Green, Stanford
  • 2009 | Invited Speaker, EESS Dept Seminar, Stanford
  • 2009 | Participant, ONR Lateral Mixing DRI Planning Meeting, Seattle
  • 2008 | Participant, workshop on "Teaching Weather and Climate Using Laboratory Experiments", University of Chicago
  • 2008 | Participant, CLIMODE workshop, WHOI
  • 2008 | Participant, ONR Lateral Mixing DRI Planning Meeting, Monterey
  • 2008 | CLIMODE workshop organizer, Stanford University
  • 2008 | Invited Speaker, AGU Fall Meeting, 2008, Session on "Formation, Evolution, and Impact of Mode Waters"

Courses Taught

  • 2013 (Spring) | EESS 215 Earth System Dynamics (Guest lecturer)
  • 2013 (Winter) | EESS 146A/246A Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics: the Atmospheric Circulation
  • 2012 (Fall) | EESS364F/CEE364F Advanced Topics in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
  • 2012 (Spring) | EESS363F/CEE363F Oceanic Fluid Dynamics
  • 2012 (Spring) | EESS 146B/246B Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics: the Ocean Circulation
  • 2011 (Spring) | EESS363F/CEE363F Oceanic Fluid Dynamics
  • 2011 (Spring) | EESS 146B/246B Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics: the Ocean Circulation
  • 2011 (Winter) | EESS 146A/246A Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics: the Atmospheric Circulation [Enrolled 20]
  • 2010 (Spring) | EESS 146B/246B Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics: the Ocean Circulation [Enrolled 14]
  • 2010 (Spring) | EESS 215 Earth System Dynamics [Enrolled 11]
  • 2009 (Winter) | EESS 301 Topics in EESS [Enrolled 5]
  • 2009 (Spring) | EESS 301 Topics in EESS [Enrolled 3]
  • 2009 (Spring) | CEE/EESS 363F Oceanic Fluid Dynamics [Enrolled 12]
  • 2008 (Fall) | EESS 301 Topics in EESS [Enrolled 9]
  • 2008 - Present | Invited lecturer, Introduction to Earth Systems (EARTHSYS 10)

Publications

  • 2013 * | Thomas, L. N., J. R. Taylor, R. Ferrari, and T. M. Joyce. Symmetric instability in the Gulf Stream, Deep Sea Res., in press.
  • 2013 *+ | Whitt, D. B., and L. N. Thomas. Near-inertial waves in strongly baroclinic currents, J. Phys. Oceanogr., in press.
  • 2013 *+ | Benthuysen , J. A., and L. N. Thomas. Nonlinear stratified spindown over a slope, J. Fluid Mech., in press.
  • 2013 * | Joyce, T. M., L. N. Thomas, W. K. Dewar, and J. B. Girton. Eighteen Degree Water Formation within the Gulf Stream during CLIMODE, Deep Sea Res., in press.
  • 2012 * | Thomas, L. N. On the effects of strain on symmetric instability and near-inertial motions, J. Fluid Mech., 711, 620-640.
  • 2012 *+ | Benthuysen, J. A., and L. N. Thomas. Friction and diapycnal mixing at a slope: Boundary control of potential vorticity, J. Phys. Ocean., 42, 1509-1523.
  • 2012 *+ | Benthuysen, J. A., and L. N. Thomas. Asymmetries in vertical vorticity and vertical velocity arising during nonlinear homogeneous spindown, Physics of Fluids., 24, 076601 (2012).
  • 2012 *+ | Long, M. C., L. N. Thomas, and R. B. Dunbar. Control of phytoplankton bloom inception in the Ross Sea, Antarctica by Ekman restratification, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 26, GB1006, doi:10.1029/2010GB003982.
  • 2012 * | Yoshikawa, Y., C. M. Lee, and L. N. Thomas. The Subpolar Front of the Japan/East Sea III: Competing Roles of Frontal Dynamics and Atmospheric Forcing in Driving Ageostrophic Vertical Circulation and Subduction, J. Phys. Ocean., 42, 991-1011.
  • 2012 * | Lauderdale, J. M., A. C. Naveira Garabato, K. I. C. Oliver, and L. N. Thomas, 2012. Climatic Variations of the Work Done by the Wind on the Ocean's General Circulation, J. Geophys. Res., 117, C9, doi:10.1029/2012JC008135.
  • 2011 * | D'Asaro, E., C. Lee, L. Rainville, R. Harcourt, and L. Thomas, 2011. Enhanced mixing and energy dissipation at ocean fronts, Science, 332, 318-322.
  • 2010 * | Thomas, L. N., and J. R. Taylor, 2010. Reduction of the usable wind-work on the general circulation by forced symmetric instability, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L18606, doi:10.1029/2010GL044680.
  • 2010 * | Thomas, L. N., C. M. Lee, and Y. Yoshikawa. The subpolar front of the Japan/East Sea II: Inverse method for determining the frontal vertical circulation. J. Phys. Ocean. 40, 3-25.
  • 2010 * | Thomas, L. N., and T. M. Joyce. Subduction on the northern and southern flanks of the Gulf Stream, J. Phys. Ocean., 40, 429-438.
  • 2010 * | Timmermans, M.-L., L. Rainville, L. Thomas, and A. Proshutinsky. Moored observations of bottom-intensified motions in the deep Canada Basin, Arctic Ocean, J. Mar. Res., 68 , 625-641.
  • 2009 * | Joyce, T. M., L. N. Thomas and F. Bahr. Wintertime observations of SubTropical Mode Water formation within the Gulf Stream, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L02607.
  • 2009 * | Morel, Y., and L. N. Thomas. Ekman drift and vortical structures, Ocean Modell., 27, 185-197.
  • 2009 * | Marshall, J., and Coauthors. The CLIMODE field campaign: Observing the cycle of convection and restratification over the Gulf Stream. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 90, 1337-1350.
  • 2008 * | Thomas, L. N., A. Tandon, and A. Mahadevan. Sub-mesoscale processes and dynamics. In M. W. Hecht, and H. Hasumi (Eds.), Ocean Modeling in an Eddying Regime, Geophysical Monograph Series, Volume 177, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, pages 17-38.
  • 2008 * | Thomas, L. N. Formation of intrathermocline eddies at ocean fronts by wind-driven destruction of potential vorticity, Dyn. Atmos. Oceans., 45, 252-273.
  • 2008 * | Mahadevan, A., L. Thomas and A. Tandon. Comment on “Eddy/Wind Interactions Stimulate Extraordinary Mid-Ocean Plankton Blooms,” Science, 320, 448b.
  • 2008 * | Thomas, L. N., and R. Ferrari. Friction, frontogenesis, and the stratification of the surface mixed layer, J. Phys. Ocean., 38, 2501–2518.
  • 2007 * | Thomas, L. N. Dynamical constraints on the extreme low values of the potential vorticity in the ocean, in Proceedings of the 15th 'Aha Huliko'a Hawaiian Winter Workshop, University of Hawaii.
  • 2006 * | Lee, C. M., L. N. Thomas, and Y. Yoshikawa. Intermediate water formation at the Japan/East Sea subpolar front, Oceanography, 19, 110-121.
  • 2006 * | Garcia Berdeal, I., S. L. Hautala, L. N. Thomas, and H. P. Johnson. Vertical structure of time-dependent currents in a mid-ocean ridge axial valley, Deep Sea Res. I, 53, 367-386.
  • 2005 * | Thomas, L. N. Destruction of potential vorticity by winds, J. Phys. Ocean., 35, 2457-2466.
  • 2005 * | Thomas, L. N. and C. M. Lee. Intensification of ocean fronts by down-front winds, J. Phys. Ocean., 35, 1086-1102.
  • 2002 * | Thomas, L. N. and P. B. Rhines. Nonlinear stratified spin-up, J. Fluid Mech. 473, 211-244.
  • 1998 * | Thomas L., W. Pesch, and G. Ahlers. Rayleigh-Bénard convection in a homeotropically aligned nematic liquid crystal, Phys. Rev. E 58 , 5884-5897

Advisee Degrees

  • 2010 | Jessica A. Benthuysen: Linear and Nonlinear Stratified Spindown over Sloping Topography, Ph.D. (CSIRO Tasmania)

Advisee Publications

  • Benthuysen*, J. A., and L. N. Thomas, 2013. Nonlinear stratified spindown over a slope, J. Fluid Mech., in press.
  • Whitt*, D. B., and L. N. Thomas, 2013. Near-inertial waves in strongly baroclinic currents, J. Phys. Oceanogr., in press.
  • Benthuysen*, J. A., and L. N. Thomas, 2012. Asymmetries in vertical vorticity and vertical velocity arising during nonlinear homogeneous spindown, Phys. Fluids, 24, 076601 (2012).
  • Benthuysen*, J., and L. N. Thomas, 2012. Friction and diapycnal mixing at a slope: Boundary control of potential vorticity, J. Phys. Oceanogr., 42, 1509-1523.

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