Publications

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2018
Whalen, CB, MacKinnon JA, Talley LD.  2018.  Large-scale impacts of the mesoscale environment on mixing from wind-driven internal waves. Nature Geoscience. 11:842-+.   10.1038/s41561-018-0213-6   AbstractWebsite

Oceanic mesoscale structures such as eddies and fronts can alter the propagation, breaking and subsequent turbulent mixing of wind-generated internal waves. However, it has been difficult to ascertain whether these processes affect the global-scale patterns, timing and magnitude of turbulent mixing, thereby powering the global oceanic overturning circulation and driving the transport of heat and dissolved gases. Here we present global evidence demonstrating that mesoscale features can significantly enhance turbulent mixing due to wind-generated internal waves. Using internal wave-driven mixing estimates calculated from Argo profiling floats between 30 degrees and 45 degrees N, we find that both the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of turbulent mixing and the response to increases in the wind energy flux are larger to a depth of at least 2,000 m in the presence of a strong and temporally uniform field of mesoscale eddy kinetic energy. Mixing is especially strong within energetic anticyclonic mesoscale features compared to cyclonic features, indicating that local modification of wind-driven internal waves is probably one mechanism contributing to the elevated mixing observed in energetic mesoscale environments.

2017
Alberty, MS, Sprintall J, MacKinnon J, Ganachaud A, Cravatte S, Eldin G, Germineaud C, Melet A.  2017.  Spatial patterns of mixing in the Solomon Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 122:4021-4039.   10.1002/2016jc012666   AbstractWebsite

The Solomon Sea is a marginal sea in the southwest Pacific that connects subtropical and equatorial circulation, constricting transport of South Pacific Subtropical Mode Water and Antarctic Intermediate Water through its deep, narrow channels. Marginal sea topography inhibits internal waves from propagating out and into the open ocean, making these regions hot spots for energy dissipation and mixing. Data from two hydrographic cruises and from Argo profiles are employed to indirectly infer mixing from observations for the first time in the Solomon Sea. Thorpe and finescale methods indirectly estimate the rate of dissipation of kinetic energy (E) and indicate that it is maximum in the surface and thermocline layers and decreases by 2-3 orders of magnitude by 2000 m depth. Estimates of diapycnal diffusivity from the observations and a simple diffusive model agree in magnitude but have different depth structures, likely reflecting the combined influence of both diapycnal mixing and isopycnal stirring. Spatial variability of E is large, spanning at least 2 orders of magnitude within isopycnal layers. Seasonal variability of E reflects regional monsoonal changes in large-scale oceanic and atmospheric conditions with E increased in July and decreased in March. Finally, tide power input and topographic roughness are well correlated with mean spatial patterns of mixing within intermediate and deep isopycnals but are not clearly correlated with thermocline mixing patterns. Plain Language Summary In the ocean, a number of physical processes move heat, salt, and nutrients around vertically by mixing neighboring layers of the ocean together. This study investigates the strength and spatial patterns of this mixing in the Solomon Sea, which is located in the tropical west Pacific Ocean. Estimates of the strength of mixing are made using measurements of temperature, salinity, and velocity taken during two scientific cruises in the Solomon Sea. Measurements of temperature and salinity from a network of floats that move up and down through the ocean and travel with ocean currents were also used to estimate the strength and patterns of mixing. This research finds three key results for mixing in the Solomon Sea: (1) Mixing is strongest near the surface of the Solomon Sea and less strong at deeper depths. (2) Mixing varies horizontally, with stronger mixing above underwater ridges and seamounts, and with weaker mixing above smooth and flat seafloor. (3) The strength of mixing changes with the seasons, possibly related to the monsoonal winds which also change in strength over the seasons.

2016
Alford, MH, MacKinnon JA, Simmons HL, Nash JD.  2016.  Near-inertial internal gravity waves in the ocean. Annual Review of Marine Science, Vol 8. 8( Carlson CA, Giovannoni SJ, Eds.).:95-123., Palo Alto: Annual Reviews   10.1146/annurev-marine-010814-015746   Abstract

We review the physics of near-inertial waves (NIWs) in the ocean and the observations, theory, and models that have provided our present knowledge. NIWs appear nearly everywhere in the ocean as a spectral peak at and just above the local inertial period f, and the longest vertical wavelengths can propagate at least hundreds of kilometers toward the equator from their source regions; shorter vertical wavelengths do not travel as far and do not contain as much energy, but lead to turbulent mixing owing to their high shear. NIWs are generated by a variety of mechanisms, including the wind, nonlinear interactions with waves of other frequencies, lee waves over bottom topography, and geostrophic adjustment; the partition among these is not known, although the wind is likely the most important. NIWs likely interact strongly with mesoscale and submesoscale motions, in ways that are just beginning to be understood.

2015
Whalen, CB, MacKinnon JA, Talley LD, Waterhouse AF.  2015.  Estimating the mean diapycnal mixing using a finescale strain parameterization. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 45:1174-1188.   10.1175/jpo-d-14-0167.1   AbstractWebsite

Finescale methods are currently being applied to estimate the mean turbulent dissipation rate and diffusivity on regional and global scales. This study evaluates finescale estimates derived from isopycnal strain by comparing them with average microstructure profiles from six diverse environments including the equator, above ridges, near seamounts, and in strong currents. The finescale strain estimates are derived from at least 10 nearby Argo profiles (generally <60 km distant) with no temporal restrictions, including measurements separated by seasons or decades. The absence of temporal limits is reasonable in these cases, since the authors find the dissipation rate is steady over seasonal time scales at the latitudes being considered (0 degrees-30 degrees and 40 degrees-50 degrees). In contrast, a seasonal cycle of a factor of 2-5 in the upper 1000m is found under storm tracks (30 degrees-40 degrees) in both hemispheres. Agreement between the mean dissipation rate calculated using Argo profiles and mean from microstructure profiles is within a factor of 2-3 for 96% of the comparisons. This is both congruous with the physical scaling underlying the finescale parameterization and indicates that the method is effective for estimating the regional mean dissipation rates in the open ocean.

2013
Frants, M, Damerell GM, Gille ST, Heywood KJ, MacKinnon J, Sprintall J.  2013.  An assessment of density-based finescale methods for estimating diapycnal diffusivity in the Southern Ocean. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. 30:2647-2661.   10.1175/jtech-d-12-00241.1   AbstractWebsite

Finescale estimates of diapycnal diffusivity are computed from CTD and expendable CTD (XCTD) data sampled in Drake Passage and in the eastern Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean and are compared against microstructure measurements from the same times and locations. The microstructure data show vertical diffusivities that are one-third to one-fifth as large over the smooth abyssal plain in the southeastern Pacific as they are in Drake Passage, where diffusivities are thought to be enhanced by the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current over rough topography. Finescale methods based on vertical strain estimates are successful at capturing the spatial variability between the low-mixing regime in the southeastern Pacific and the high-mixing regime of Drake Passage. Thorpe-scale estimates for the same dataset fail to capture the differences between Drake Passage and eastern Pacific estimates. XCTD profiles have lower vertical resolution and higher noise levels after filtering than CTD profiles, resulting in XCTD estimates that are, on average, an order of magnitude higher than CTD estimates. Overall, microstructure diffusivity estimates are better matched by strain-based estimates than by estimates based on Thorpe scales, and CTD data appear to perform better than XCTD data. However, even the CTD-based strain diffusivity estimates can differ from microstructure diffusivities by nearly an order of magnitude, suggesting that density-based fine-structure methods of estimating mixing from CTD or XCTD data have real limitations in low-stratification regimes such as the Southern Ocean.

2007
Thompson, AF, Gille ST, MacKinnon JA, Sprintall J.  2007.  Spatial and temporal patterns of small-scale mixing in Drake Passage. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 37:572-592.   10.1175/jpo3021.1   AbstractWebsite

Temperature and salinity profiles obtained with expendable CTD probes throughout Drake Passage between February 2002 and July 2005 are analyzed to estimate turbulent diapycnal eddy diffusivities to a depth of 1000 m. Diffusivity values are inferred from density/temperature inversions and internal wave vertical strain. Both methods reveal the same pattern of spatial variability across Drake Passage; diffusivity estimates from inversions exceed those from vertical strain by a factor of 3 over most of Drake Passage. The Polar Front (PF) separates two dynamically different regions. Strong thermohaline intrusions characterize profiles obtained north of the PF. South of the PF, stratification is determined largely by salinity, and temperature is typically unstably stratified between 100- and 600-m depth. In the upper 400 m, turbulent diapycnal diffusivities are 0(10(-3) m(2) s(-1)) north of the PF but decrease to 0(10(-3) m(2) s(-1)) or smaller south of the PF. Below 400 m diffusivities typically exceed 10(-4) m(2) s(-1). Diffusivities decay weakly with depth north of the PF, whereas diffusivities increase with depth and peak near the local temperature maximum south of the PF. The meridional pattern in near-surface mixing corresponds to local maxima and minima of both wind stress and wind stress variance. Near-surface diffusivities are also found to be larger during winter months north of the PF. Wind-driven near-inertial waves, strong mesoscale eddy activity, and double-diffusive convection are suggested as possible factors contributing to observed mixing patterns.

2003
MacKinnon, JA, Gregg MC.  2003.  Mixing on the late-summer New England shelf - Solibores, shear, and stratification. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 33:1476-1492.   10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<1476:motlne>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Observations are presented of microstructure and velocity measurements made on the outer New England shelf in the late summer of 1996 as part of the Coastal Mixing and Optics Experiment. The depth- and time-averaged turbulent dissipation rate was 5-50 (x 10(-9) W kg(-1)). The associated average diapycnal diffusivity in stratified water was 5-20 (x 10(26) m(2) s(-1)), comparable to observed open-ocean thermocline values and too low to explain the strong variability observed in local water properties. Dissipation rates and diffusivity were both highly episodic. Turbulent boundary layers grew down from the surface and up from the bottom. The dissipation rate within the bottom boundary layer had an average of 1.2 x 10(-7) W kg(-1) and varied in magnitude with the strength of near-bottom flow from the barotropic tide, an along-shelf flow, and low-frequency internal waves. The average dissipation rate in the peak thermocline was 5 x 10(-8) W kg(-1); one-half of the thermocline dissipation was due to the strong shear and strain within six solibores that cumulatively lasted less than a day but contained 100-fold elevated dissipation and diffusivity. Nonsolibore, midcolumn dissipation was strongly correlated with shear from low-frequency internal waves. Dissipation was not well parameterized by Gregg-Henyey-type scaling. An alternate scaling, modified to account for observed coastal internal wave properties, was in good agreement with measured dissipation rates. At the end of the observational period Hurricane Edouard passed by, producing strong dissipation rates (4 x 10(-6) W kg(-1)) and consequent mixing during and for several days following the peak winds.