Sunrise over the horizon
The CTD Rosette
After fieldwork clean-up
Fieldwork in progress
The research assistants room at the sea-air interaction laboratory



The laboratory’s goal is to advocate that the study of weather and climate would be incomplete without studying the ocean.


Research Interest

Sea Air Land Interaction

“The ocean remembers, being the memory of the climate system”.
-Walter Munk-


Upper ocean dynamics

The dynamics of the upper ocean is important in understanding the weather systems as it is within the bounds of the interface of the ocean and atmosphere. One of the interesting dynamical features of the ocean near the Philippines is the bifurcation of the North Equatorial Current located at the eastern side of the Philippines.

Ocean Circulation

The Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) is one of the devices used for measuring ocean current velocities through the doppler effect of scattered sound waves in the water column.

Wind and waves

Wave generation is greatly influenced by the force of wind. The image shows the wind intensity of a passing cyclone, in this case Typhoon Yolanda of 2013, were the intense wind generated huge waves and storm surges.


Models are decision support systems that transform complex physical phenomena to simplified versions that can explain, to some extent, the said phenomena.

Wave exposure maps

Wave exposure maps are proactive response to the impacts of battering waves that constantly affects our coastal communities.

Image Source: Vulnerability Assessment Tools for Coastal Ecosystems: A Guidebook 2013

Topographic Interactions

Topographic sills are underwater geologic formations that influence the dynamics of the water column in terms of current velocities, current directions, salinity, temperature, etc.

Ocean Optics

The Flow Through System device is comprised of several interdependent devices/sensors used for ocean optics data acquisition. This is a standard device in the sea-air interaction laboratory.

Phytoplankton pigments and productivity

Chlorophyll in phytoplankton is one of the photosynthetic pigment in the ocean. SAIL is also interested in studying phytoplankton pigments as a productivity indicator of the ocean waters.

Source: Barrier Layer Control of Entrainment and Upwelling in the Bohol Sea, Philippines (Cabrera et al. 2011)

PublicationResearch MentoringCurrent Research Project & Collaboration

J.L.A. Soria, A.D. Switzer, C.L. Villanoy, H.M. Fritz, P.H.T. Bilgera, O.C. Cabrera, F. Siringa, Y.Yacat-Sta. Maria, R. D. Ramos, and I.Q. Fernandez. 2016: Repeat Storm Surge Disasters of Typhoon Haiyan and Its 1897 Predecessor in the Philippines. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 97, 31-48.


On 8 November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan impacted the Philippines with estimated winds of approximately 314 km h-1 and an associated 5–7-m-high storm surge that struck Tacloban City and the surrounding coast of the shallow, funnel-shaped San Pedro Bay. Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people, superseding Tropical Storm Thelma of November 1991 as the deadliest typhoon in the Philippines. Globally, it was the deadliest tropical cyclone since Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008. Here, we use field measurements, eyewitness accounts, and video recordings to corroborate numerical simulations and to characterize the extremely high velocity flooding caused by the Typhoon Haiyan storm surge in both San Pedro Bay and on the more open Pacific Ocean coast. We then compare the surge heights from Typhoon Haiyan with historical records of an unnamed typhoon that took a similar path of destruction in October 1897 (Ty 1897) but which was less intense, smaller, and moved more slowly. The Haiyan surge was about twice the height of the 1897 event in San Pedro Bay, but the two storm surges had similar heights on the open Pacific coast. Until stronger prehistoric events are explored, these two storm surges serve as worst-case scenarios for this region. This study highlights that rare but disastrous events should be carefully evaluated in the context of enhancing community-based disaster risk awareness, planning, and response.


Cabrera, O.C., C.L. Villanoy, I.D. Alabia, and A.L. Gordon. 2015. Shifts in chlorophyll a off eastern Luzon,              Philippines, associated with the North Equatorial Current bifurcation latitude. Oceanography 28(4): 46-53


The Bohol Sea is a relatively unstudied marginal sea located in the southern part of the Philippines. Hydrographic data from the Philippine Straits Dynamics Experiment (PhilEx) cruises reveal a complex three-dimensional circulation composed of two overturning cells that may be referred to as “double-estuarine type.” This type of overturning circulation promotes upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich waters within the Bohol Sea associated with entrainment and eddy processes that promote phytoplankton blooms. Evidence from ocean color imagery supports entrainment in the eastern basin and eddy formation in the southwestern basin. However, PhilEx researchers found that the cyclonic Iligan Bay Eddy in the southwestern basin did not conform to the paradigm of cyclonic eddy upwelling. Although upwelling was evident through doming isotherms within the water column, the surface projection of this signal was suppressed by the presence of a thick barrier layer, particularly during cruises in December 2007 and January 2008, a known La Niña period. Long-term trends in chlorophyll data followed trends in rainfall and the ENSO 3.4 index, with elevated (reduced) chlorophyll during dry El Niño years (wet La Niña years). By promoting stability of surface layer stratification and preventing vertical transport of nutrients, the barrier layer is thus a mechanism by which the El Niño-Southern Oscillation influences phytoplankton biomass in the Bohol Sea.


M.S. Samson, S.S. Mamauag, L.T. David, R.Borja-Del Rosario, M.C.C. Quibilan, F.P. Siringan, M.Y.Y. Sta Maria, N.B. España, C.L. Villanoy, R.C. Geronimo, O.C. Cabrera, R.J.S. Martinez, P.M. Aliño (2015). I-C-SEA Change: A participatory tool for rapid assessment of vulnerability of tropical coastal communities to climate change impacts. AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment 06/2015


We present a synoptic, participatory vulnerability assessment tool to help identify the likely impacts of climate change and human activity in coastal areas and begin discussions among stakeholders on the coping and adaptation measures necessary to minimize these impacts. Vulnerability assessment tools are most needed in the tropical Indo-Pacific, where burgeoning populations and inequitable economic growth place even greater burdens on natural resources and support ecosystems. The Integrated Coastal Sensitivity, Exposure, and Adaptive Capacity for Climate Change (I-C-SEA Change) tool is built around a series of scoring rubrics to guide non-specialists in assigning scores to the sensitivity and adaptive capacity components of vulnerability, particularly for coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove habitats, along with fisheries and coastal integrity. These scores are then weighed against threat or exposure to climate-related impacts such as marine flooding and erosion. The tool provides opportunities for learning by engaging more stakeholders in participatory planning and group decision-making. It also allows for information to be collated and processed during a "town-hall" meeting, facilitating further discussion, data validation, and even interactive scenario building.



Pullen, J., Gordon, A. L., Flatau, M., Doyle, J. D., Villanoy, C., & Cabrera, O. (2015). Multiscale influences on extreme winter rainfall in the Philippines. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 1–18. doi:10.1002/2014JD022645


During 2007–2008, the Philippines experienced the greatest rainfall in 40 winters. We use a combination of observations (including 48 meteorological stations distributed throughout the islands, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite-sensed precipitation, and shipboard measurements) along with a high-resolution two-way coupled ocean/atmosphere model (3 km Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS)®) to examine this anomalous season. As expected from climatology, rainfall was greatest on the eastern side of the archipelago, with seasonal totals exceeding 4000 mm in some locations. A moderate to strong La Niña increased the rainfall across the region. But discrete precipitation events delivered the bulk of the rain to the area and coincided with intense Madden-Julian oscillation activity over the archipelago and a late February cold surge. General patterns and magnitudes of rainfall produced by the two-way coupled model agreed with observations from land and from space. During the discrete events, the 3 km COAMPS also produced high amounts of precipitation in the mountainous parts of central Philippines. Direct observations were limited in this region. However, the government reported river flooding and evacuations in Mindoro during February 2008 as a result of significant rainfall. In addition, shipboard measurements from late January 2008 (collected by the Philippines Straits Dynamics Experiment) reveal a fresh lens of water to the west of the island of Mindoro, consistent with high freshwater discharge (river runoff) into the coastal area.



  • Jimmy R. Corong, Jr , MS MeteorologyUse of a forecast atmospheric-ocean-sediment model for assessing the impact of typhoon-induced surge to coastal geomorphology


In the Philippines, intensity of typhoons is measured by maximum wind speed attained, with damage resulting mostly from the ferocious winds and sometimes torrential rains. However, typhoons also inflict damage by changing the onshore and offshore landscape at a faster rate than normal through morphological processes such as erosion and sedimentation. Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is an intense typhoon that devastated the Visayas region in the Philippines on November 8, 2013. The coastal towns along San Pedro Bay were among the most affected when Typhoon Haiyan made landfall. An atmospheric forecast model (WRF) and an ocean model (Delft3D-Flow/Wave) were used to simulate the typhoon surge and sedimentological changes during and immediately after Haiyan. Parameterization of WRF atmospheric model focused on varying microphysics schemes and using the wind and pressure output from the best combination scheme as inputs for the Delft3D ocean model. In Tacloban City, a 2 meter surge was produced using WRF wind, compared to a 5 meter surge produced using input from best-track data of Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). The difference was due to the significantly weaker wind produced from WRF simulation. There are erosion and sedimentation hotspots in the coasts of San Pedro Bay, with Tacloban and Tanauan as areas with significant erosion and Basey with significant sedimentation. To some extent, hydrodynamic process, coastal erosion and sedimentation that led to the morphological changes in the study area were reproduced and is consistent with previous studies. This study is the first of its kind that tried to couple atmospheric, oceanographic, and sedimentological process in simulating the damage from Typhoon Haiyan.


  • Alvin E. Pura, MS Meteorology
  • Arra Camille D. Canare, MS Meteorology
  • Sheila Marie Navarro, MS meteorology
  • Regional Scales of Variability in Precipitation (RSVP) Project
  • Spatiotemporal Distribution and relative abundance of small cetaceans along southern Tañon Strait in relation to environmental factors
  • Benham Rise Potential Productivity Research Project
  • National Assessment for the Coral Reef Environmental (NACRE) Project (Watershed and Ocean Parameters for the Assessment of Coral Reef Health [WOPAC])
  • Coastal Assessment for Rehabilitation Enhancement:Capability Development and Resiliency of EcoSystems (CARE-CaDRES)