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Studying Irminger Rings in a Small but Vibrant City

Fehmi Dilmahamod recently arrived at Dalhousie University as an OFI International Postdoctoral Fellow to study mesoscale eddies, also known as the “weather” of the ocean.

Fehmi noted that the transition to working at Dalhousie University has been very smooth, due in large part to the infrastructure in terms of both scientific equipment and overall support for international students. “Dalhousie is set up to make life easy for international students to fit in.”

Fehmi said the program is a great fit for his fellowship, as OFI’s research themes fit perfectly with his study interests. He came to Dalhousie from Germany, and is excited to try living in a new place after spending time in France and South Africa during his PhD.

He also mentioned that OFI’s International Postdoctoral Fellowship was a great next step in his academic career, particularly with OFI’s new early career researchers network (ECOFIRE) now up and running. And although Halifax is a little smaller than he’s used to, Fehmi said that he’s loving it here. “It’s small, but vibrant. I’m working with a good group of people who are becoming friends.”

Fehmi is studying a special kind of eddies called Irminger Rings, named after the large ocean current they are generated from. These swirling rings can travel from the west coast of Greenland, all the way to the middle of the Labrador Sea off the east coast of Newfoundland. As they travel, these eddies carry important gases, such as carbon dioxide and oxygen, as well as nutrients that microscopic algae depend on for growth. But studying mesoscale eddies from a ship is very expensive, logistically challenging, and doesn’t provide large datasets over long periods. 

To overcome this, Fehmi is combining an ocean physical model with satellite measurements, and hopes to understand how mesoscale eddies impact the biological carbon pump – a natural process that removes carbon out of the atmosphere and stores it in the deep ocean.  

Now that he’s here, Fehmi’s first step is to work with the physics model that’s been running for 2 years. The model – which contains a large number of mathematical equations for how the ocean moves – is providing information on ocean currents from 1958-2015, giving a snapshot of mesoscale eddies each month over the 58-year period. Once Fehmi has a good handle on the model data, he’ll begin to work with the satellite measurements.

Fehmi’s research is in collaboration with GEOMAR - the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel - one of OFI’s international partner institutions, and linked to OFI Large Research Project Module F.