Publications

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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.

2007
Alford, MH, MacKinnon JA, Zhao ZX, Pinkel R, Klymak J, Peacock T.  2007.  Internal waves across the Pacific. Geophysical Research Letters. 34   10.1029/2007gl031566   AbstractWebsite

The long-range propagation of the semidiurnal internal tide northward from the Hawaiian ridge and its susceptibility to parametric subharmonic instability (PSI) at the "critical latitude,'' lambda(c) = 28.8 degrees N, were examined in spring 2006 with intensive shipboard and moored observations spanning 25-37 degrees N along a tidal beam. Velocity and shear at lambda(c) were dominated by intense vertically-standing, inertially-rotating bands of several hundred meters vertical wavelength. These occurred in bursts following spring tide, contrasting sharply with the downward-propagating, wind-generated features seen at other latitudes. These marginally-stable layers (which have inverse 16-meter Richardson number Ri(16)(-1) = 0.7) are interpreted as the inertial waves resulting from PSI of the internal tide. Elevated near-inertial energy and parameterized diapycnal diffusivity, and reduced asymmetry in upgoing/downgoing energy, were also observed at and equatorward of lambda(c). Yet, simultaneous moored measurements of semidiurnal energy flux and 1-km-deep velocity sections measured from the ship indicate that the internal tide propagates at least to 37 degrees N, with no detectable energy loss or phase discontinuity at lambda(c). Our observations indicate that PSI occurs in the ocean with sufficient intensity to substantially alter the inertial shear field at and equatorward of lambda(c), but that it does not appreciably disrupt the propagation of the tide at our location.