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Charles Flagg

Research Professor



- Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Research Topics:

Continental Shelf Dynamics, Bio-Physical Interactions in Shelf Systems, Climate Change Effects on Coastal Systems, Shipboard ADCPs on Volunteer Observing Ships

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  • Bio/Research


    My research has focused on the kinematics and dynamics of the world’s coastal ocean which has led to projects on the east and west coasts of the United States, the arctic, South America, east Africa and Australia. Looming large in this effort have been processes at the edge of the broad continental shelf of the Middle Atlantic Bight and the Gulf of Maine that control the exchange of mass and material between the deep ocean and shelf occurs. Investigations of these areas started with hydrographic and moored observations and have expanded to include bottom-mounted and ship-based ADCPs, and close coordination with biological and chemical measurement programs. In this process, the application of ADCPs to biological issues led to the development of techniques to infer zooplankton biomass acoustically on the same time and space scales as those of the physical parameters. As the research progressed through several coastal ocean programs (SEEP-I, -II, OMP, and GLOBEC) there was an increasing realization of the importance of long-term climatic fluctuations and their impact on the shelves. This was a central issue in the Georges Bank GLOBEC program in which the physical processes controlling the development of larval cod and haddock and their zooplankton prey were investigated in light of both local and far-field forcing. The focus on climate-scale processes of the coastal and adjacent waters also spurred the development of a long-term upper ocean current observation program using an ADCP on a volunteer observing ship, the container vessel Oleander that makes weekly trips between New York and Bermuda. The expertise gained in the Oleander VOS program has led to an ambitious program to apply some of the same techniques to monitor the northern limb of the meridional over-turning circulation as it crosses the Iceland to Scotland ridge from a high-speed ferry.

    Recently and in collaboration with Professor Robert Wilson, I have begun to study the circulation of the coastal lagoons of southern Long Island using a combination of numerical modeling and observations. Coastal lagoons exist all along the U.S. east and Gulf coasts where they play a vital role in the regional ecology and are increasingly impacted by anthropogenic processes. The Long Island coastal lagoons offer a unique opportunity to study these processes and the modeling which include tidal, buoyancy, atmospheric and bottom ground water forcing offer a particularly efficient means of examining how these areas have and will change in response to man’s activities. Currently, we are looking at the impact that breaches in Fire Island might have on the circulation and salinity distribution in Great South Bay and how bathymetric changes have altered the circulation and sediment transport in Jamaica Bay.

  • Publications


    Rossby, H.T., C.N. Flagg and K. Donohue. 2010.   On the variability of Gulf Stream transport from seasonal to decadal timescales. Journal of Marine Research. 68(3-4): 503-522.

    Wei, D., D-P. Wang and C.N. Flagg. 2008.   Mapping Gulf Stream warm core rings from shipboard ADCP transects of the Oleander Project .  Journal of Geophysical Research  113, C10021, doi:10.1029/2007JC004694.

    Flagg, C.N., M. Dunn, D-P. Wang, H.T. Rossby and R.L. Benway. 2006.   A study of the currents of the outer shelf and upper slope from a decade of shipboard ADCP observations in the Middle Atlantic Bight .   Journal of Geophysical Research  111, C06003, doi:10.1029/2005JC003116.

    Rossby,T., C.N. Flagg and K. Donohue, 2005. Interannual variations in upper-ocean transport by the Gulf Stream and adjacent waters between New Jersey and Bermuda. J. Mar, Res., 63,203-226.

    Codispoti, L.A., C.N. Flagg and V. Kelly, 2005. Hydrographic conditions during the 2002 SBI Process Experiments. Deep-Sea Research II, in press.

    Smith P.C., C.N. Flagg, R. Limeburner, C. Fuentes-Yaco, C. Hannah ,R.C. Beardsley, and J. Irish, 2003. Scotian shelf cross-overs during winter/spring 1999. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108, 8013, doi:10.1029/2001JC001288.

    Flagg, C.N. and M. Dunn, 2003. Characterization of the mean and seasonal flow regime on Georges Bank from five years of shipboard ADCP data. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108, 8002, doi:10.1029/2001JC001257.

    Flagg, C.N., L.J.Pietrafesa, and G.L. Weatherly, 2002. Springtime hydrography of the southern Middle Atlantic Bight and the onset of seasonal stratification. Deep-Sea Research II, 49/20, pp 4297-4329.

    Kim, H–S., Flagg, C.N., and Howden, S.D., 2001. Northern Arabian Sea variability from TOPEX/Poseidon altimetry data, An extension of the JGOFS/ONR shipboard ADCP study. Deep Sea Research, 48, 1069-1096..

    Flagg, C.N. and H–S. Kim, 1998. Upper ocean currents in the northern Arabian Sea from ADCP measurements during the 1994–1996 JGOFS program. Deep Sea Research, 45, 1917–2000.

    Flagg, C.N., G.Schwartze, E. Gottlieb, and T. Rossby, 1997. Operating an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) aboard a container vessel. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 15, 257–271.

    Flagg, C.N., R.W. Houghton, and L.J. Pietrafesa, 1994. Summertime thermocline/salinity maximum intrusions in the Mid–Atlantic Bight. Deep Sea Research II, 41, 325–340.

    Flagg, C.N., C.D. Wirick, and S.L. Smith, 1994. The interaction of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and currents from 15 months of continuous data in the Mid–Atlantic Bight. Deep Sea Research II, 41, 411–436.

    Houghton, R.W., C.N. Flagg, and L.J. Pietrafesa, 1994. Shelf–slope water frontal structure, motion, and eddy heat flux in the southern Middle Atlantic Bight. Deep Sea Research II, 41, 273–306.

    Flagg, C.N., and S. L. Smith, 1989. On the use of the RDI acoustic Doppler current profiler to measure zooplankton abundance. Deep Sea Res. 36,3, 455–474.

    Flagg, C.N., 1988. Internal waves and mixing along the New England shelf–water/slope–water front. Continental Shelf Res. 8, 737–756.

    Flagg, C.N., R.L. Gordon, and S.C. McDowell,1986. Current and hydrographic measurements on the continental shelf and slope of the western equatorial Atlantic. J. Phys. Oceano. 16, 1412–1429.

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