Seminars on Science
Dr. Jake Gebbie

Dr. Jake Gebbie. ©AMNH

Dr. Jake Gebbie is a research scientist in the Climate Dynamics Group at Harvard University. His research is focused on understanding how the ocean affects climate. He has published on topics ranging from the role of ocean currents during the last Ice Age, predicting El Nino events in the near future, and understanding the behavior of the intricate swirls, or "eddies," in the ocean.

Jake received his doctorate from the Joint Program at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. While in graduate school he had the opportunity to see firsthand how the deep waters of the ocean are formed off the coast of Greenland. During a 28-day research cruise (without any port calls!) Jake sampled some of the coldest waters of the world ocean and detected signs of the rapid overturning of these waters from depths approaching 10,000 feet. It is these deep waters that fill up huge portions of the ocean and therefore have a great capacity to store heat, carbon dioxide, and other quantities of environmental importance. On other research cruises Jake has studied the Gulf Stream and the Sargasso Sea.

One of Jake’s fundamental interests is whether ocean circulation will mitigate or exacerbate changes in our future climate. To study this problem it is first necessary to determine how the ocean has changed in the past. Because very little of the ocean has been monitored and our capability for monitoring is relatively new, Jake's current research relies upon a variety of incomplete clues, such as records from mud collected from the bottom of the ocean and complex state-of-the-art computer models that encapsulate our present knowledge of the physics, chemistry, and biology of the ocean. Jake has confirmed that the waters residing at the bottom of the ocean are much older than previously thought and thus can be used to recover a record of atmospheric conditions dating back to the Middle Ages.

Although Jake is primarily working on research, he is strongly interested in teaching, as evidenced by the time he reclined on a bed of one thousand nails as a high school physics teacher. The students were disappointed that he was not punctured when a concrete block was placed on his chest and shattered by sledgehammer, but they did learn about the concepts of force, weight, and pressure! Winter is Jake’s favorite season not just because it is the most interesting time for ocean physics but also because of his interest in backcountry skiing and snowboarding. He is attempting to become a real New Englander after growing up in sunny Southern California.

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