Ocean Physics at NASA


The ocean plays a fundamental role in the Earth’s system. It shapes our planet’s climate and weather by absorbing, storing, and transporting large quantities of heat, water, moisture, and carbon dioxide. NASA’s Physical Oceanography (PO) program enables research that advances our understanding of the ocean’s role in climate. Our scientists utilize NASA satellite and sub-orbital data, climate models and data science to study ocean dynamics, sea level rise, hydrological cycle, and ocean interactions within the Earth system.

To join us and become a NASA scientist, apply to one of current NASA research opportunities.


SWOT’s Unprecedented View of Global Sea Levels

Data on sea surface heights around the world from the international SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) mission yields a mesmerizing view of the planet’s ocean.

Sentinel-6MF Monitors How El Niño Is Shaping Up

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the latest satellite that researchers are using to compare this year’s El Niño with those of the past.

A Wave Glider is recovered for maintenance.

SASSIE Data for You!

Find out about SASSIE (Salinity and Stratification at the Sea Ice Edge) data, how to access, tools, and more.

SWOT First Science Results Press Conference, September 21, 2023

SWOT Science Team Press Event

The science team discusses the first SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) data and field calibration campaigns.

NASA scientists are flying off the California coast to see how the weather of the ocean interacts with the Earth’s climate and the journey started at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

NBC Flies with S-MODE

NBC flies with S-MODE to see how the ocean’s surface effects climate.

Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) mooring team members Noah Howins, Cindy Tran, and Spencer Kawamoto removing the gooseneck barnacles from the instrumentation.

Interagency Field Project Returns from Sea

NOPP Global Internal Waves campaign redeploys mooring as part of SWOT validation.

This data visualization shows sea surface heights off the northern California coast in August as measured by the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. Red indicates higher-than-average heights, due to a marine heat wave and a developing El Niño, while blue signals lower-than-average heights.

SWOT Satellite Monitors Warming Ocean off California Coast

SWOT can observe warming, such as from El Nino, closer to the coast than any previous satellite mission.

Making Waves in Open Science: NASA Initiatives Enable Ocean Research

NASA open science is working towards making ocean research and data more accessible, ECCO is an excellent example of this.

Science and Research

NASA’s Physical Oceanography program directs multiple competitively-selected NASA’s Science Teams that study the physics of the oceans. Below are details about each science team.


PO program provides scientific leadership on the following missions:


Currently taking measurements


Upcoming missions


Past missions providing data for current research

2012-2013 & 2016-2017

Access the Data


The Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center (PO.DAAC) preserves NASA's ocean and climate open data and makes these universally accessible and meaningful.


PO program actively engages in the following national and international partnerships that work together to sustain and enhance the Earth observing system.


Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer
Lead, NASA Climate Variability and Change
Physical Oceanography Program Manager
Contact | Bio

Jessica Hausman
Physical Oceanography Support Scientist
Contact | Bio