Greg Seroka

greg_seroka.jpgGreg Seroka has a background in Atmospheric Science, specifically Meteorology, from Penn State and Texas A&M. He is currently a PhD candidate in Oceanography at Rutgers.

Q: Please briefly describe your research. I study the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean and how they influence one another, with an application to offshore wind energy. We are analyzing the wind resource off the New Jersey coast for planned offshore wind energy parks. By modeling the atmosphere and ocean to get a full spatial extent of the wind resource and the ocean underlying the wind, we can improve our best estimates of what is happening offshore. There are a lot of limitations offshore with instruments, so modeling is the best way to analyze the wind resource.

Specifically, I am looking at how the wind is variable offshore. Sea breeze circulation is one of the largest sources of variability, and during the summer when everyone uses air conditioning, there is consistent and high demand for energy. A lot of wind resource assessments in the past have looked at annual averages, but those data do not account for daily changes in energy demand. By observing these changes in accordance with wind changes, we can determine whether or not daily wind patterns will be able to meet daily energy demands. Looking at the spatial variability of the offshore extent of the sea breeze is a key part of my research because the offshore patterns are not as well studied as onshore patterns.

Eventually, I’m looking to couple this research back to the ocean and observe the sea breeze’s influence on the ocean. The continuous feedback causes physical processes like coastal upwelling, which occurs in the summer when the strong southwesterly flow of winds parallel to the New Jersey coast transports surface water offshore to bring cold water up to the surface. This in turn affects winds, since sea breeze is driven by the gradient between cold ocean water and warm land. If coastal upwelling were even colder, it would change sea breeze as well.

In the future, we want to test and refine the modeling scheme we have with stronger storms like hurricanes. We have been looking at recent hurricanes such as Irene and Sandy to help improve the modeling of those storms. By understanding what happened in the past with hurricanes, we can, for example, predict the future impacts of hurricanes on offshore wind parks.

Q: How did you come to be involved in this research? I was at Texas A&M for my Masters in Atmospheric Science, and I was a TA for a professor who was contacted during the Gulf oil spill by the National Weather Service. They were observing very unusual winds over the oil spill and they wanted to understand them better, so they asked my professor to launch upper air weather balloons over the oil spill to better understand what was going on in the atmosphere. My professor invited me to accompany him, and once I went out on the water I fell in love with the ocean. He later suggested that I contact Rutgers, which has the Coastal Ocean Observation Lab. I contacted Scott Glenn, my current advisor, who connected me to a grant for this offshore wind energy project.

Q: Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? Overall, offshore wind energy is an emerging sector of the US energy future as we move towards renewable energy. To fully optimize the offshore wind resources of our country, we need to better understand the high-resolution details, both spatially and temporally, of the wind so that we can not only understand what happened in the past but also predict wind activity in the future. My modeling for the wind resource is looking at past events, but it will enable improved modeling for operational forecasting in the future for construction, operations and maintenance of wind farms. Next-day energy trading would also benefit from forecasts of offshore wind generation.