Speaker Profile:

Oceana Puananilei Francis
Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE)
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu

Oceana Francis is an Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the College of Engineering and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii Manoa. She has two Bachelor degrees in Physics and Civil Engineering, a Masters in Civil Engineering, and a PhD in Atmospheric Science with a specialization in Ocean Wave Mechanics. She is a licensed civil engineer with the State of Alaska and currently obtaining licensure with the State of Hawaii.

Her work focuses on coastal and ocean engineering, wind-generated waves, sustainable water and wastewater systems, flood control protection, meteorological and ocean processes on coastal infrastructure, development of sustainable coastal infrastructure affected by climate change and water shortage, design and construction, field measurements, and modeling.

She is a Native Hawaiian born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and has lived in Alaska working as both an engineer and scientist. Her most recent award was in 2010 where she received the Young Engineer of the Year award from the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers.


Using an interdisciplinary approach involving meteorological, oceanography, and engineering methods, this seminar presents results of the ocean wave state through a multiyear study based on in situ and satellite observations, simple analytical models, and a comprehensive numerical study. Methods in this study allow prediction of wave states that affect local communities and maritime operations. The region of study described focuses on the Arctic and Chukchi Sea, a region where data is extremely sparse.

In situ observations include data from two bottom mounted Recording Doppler Current Profilers (RDCPs) moorings placed at offshore and nearshore locations in the southeast Chukchi Sea. Analysis of this data and observed synoptic-scale atmospheric variability in the region reveal that simple one-dimensional spectral models are robust. The more sophisticated directional wave model (WAM Cycle 4.5) reveals high sensitivity with respect to the utilized wind forcing. Analysis of satellite SWH observation and the cross validation between satellite and in situ data identifies an increase of approximately 0.02m/year in wave height in the Arctic Ocean during the last two decades, which is well correlated with observed diminishing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Through the methods presented in this lecture and the large amount of unanalyzed wave data in Hawaii, we can use these techniques to understanding Hawaii’s coastal processes better, therefore creating a more sustainable Hawaii against climate change.

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