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
Alford, MH, MacKinnon JA, Pinkel R, Klymak JM.  2017.  Space-time scales of shear in the North Pacific. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 47:2455-2478.   10.1175/jpo-d-17-0087.1   AbstractWebsite

The spatial, temporal, and directional characteristics of shear are examined in the upper 1400m of the North Pacific during late spring with an array of five profiling moorings deployed from 25 degrees to 37 degrees N (1330 km) and simultaneous shipboard transects past them. The array extended from a regime of moderate wind generation at the north to south of the critical latitude 28.8 degrees N, where parametric subharmonic instability (PSI) can transfer energy from semidiurnal tides to near-inertial motions. Analyses are done in an isopycnal-following frame to minimize contamination by Doppler shifting. Approximately 60% of RMS shear at vertical scales >20m (and 80% for vertical scales >80 m) is contained in near-inertial motions. An inertial back-rotation technique is used to index shipboard observations to a common time and to compute integral time scales of the shear layers. Persistence times are O(7) days at most moorings but O(25) days at the critical latitude. Simultaneous shipboard transects show that these shear layers can have lateral scales >= 100 km. Layers tend to slope downward toward the equator north of the critical latitude and are more flat to its south. Phase between shear and strain is used to infer lateral propagation direction. Upgoing waves are everywhere laterally isotropic. Downgoing waves propagate predominantly equatorward north and south of the critical latitude but are isotropic near it. Broadly, results are consistent with wind generation north of the critical latitude and PSI near it-and suggest a more persistent and laterally coherent near-inertial wave field than previously thought.

2016
Chowdary, JS, Srinivas G, Fousiya TS, Parekh A, Gnanaseelan C, Seo H, MacKinnon JA.  2016.  Representation of Bay of Bengal upper-ocean salinity in general circulation models. Oceanography. 29:38-49.   10.5670/oceanog.2016.37   AbstractWebsite

The Bay of Bengal (BoB) upper-ocean salinity is examined in the National Centers for Environmental Prediction-Climate Forecasting System version 2 (CFSv2) coupled model, Modular Ocean Model version 5 (MOM5), and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services Global Ocean Data Assimilation System (INC-GODAS). CFSv2 displays a large positive salinity bias with respect to World Ocean Atlas 2013 in the upper 40 m of the water column. The prescribed annual mean river discharge and excess evaporation are the main contributors to the positive bias in surface salinity. Overestimation of salinity advection also contributes to the high surface salinity in the model during summer. The surface salinity bias in MOM5 is smaller than in CFSv2 due to prescribed local freshwater flux and seasonally varying river discharge. However, the bias is higher around 70 m in summer and 40 m in fall. This bias is attributed to excessive vertical mixing in the upper ocean. Despite the fact that representation of salinity in INC-GODAS is more realistic due to data assimilation, the vertical mixing scheme still imposes systematic errors. The small-scale processes that control oceanographic turbulence are not adequately resolved in any of these models. Better parameterizations based on dedicated observational programs may help improve freshwater representation in regional and global models.

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.

2014
Waterhouse, AF, MacKinnon JA, Nash JD, Alford MH, Kunze E, Simmons HL, Polzin KL, St Laurent LC, Sun OM, Pinkel R, Talley LD, Whalen CB, Huussen TN, Carter GS, Fer I, Waterman S, Garabato ACN, Sanford TB, Lee CM.  2014.  Global patterns of diapycnal mixing from measurements of the turbulent dissipation rate. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 44:1854-1872.   10.1175/jpo-d-13-0104.1   AbstractWebsite

The authors present inferences of diapycnal diffusivity from a compilation of over 5200 microstructure profiles. As microstructure observations are sparse, these are supplemented with indirect measurements of mixing obtained from(i) Thorpe-scale overturns from moored profilers, a finescale parameterization applied to (ii) shipboard observations of upper-ocean shear, (iii) strain as measured by profiling floats, and (iv) shear and strain from full-depth lowered acoustic Doppler current profilers (LADCP) and CTD profiles. Vertical profiles of the turbulent dissipation rate are bottom enhanced over rough topography and abrupt, isolated ridges. The geography of depth-integrated dissipation rate shows spatial variability related to internal wave generation, suggesting one direct energy pathway to turbulence. The global-averaged diapycnal diffusivity below 1000-m depth is O(10(-4))m(2) s(-1) and above 1000-m depth is O(10(-5))m(2) s(-1). The compiled microstructure observations sample a wide range of internal wave power inputs and topographic roughness, providing a dataset with which to estimate a representative global-averaged dissipation rate and diffusivity. However, there is strong regional variability in the ratio between local internal wave generation and local dissipation. In some regions, the depth-integrated dissipation rate is comparable to the estimated power input into the local internal wave field. In a few cases, more internal wave power is dissipated than locally generated, suggesting remote internal wave sources. However, at most locations the total power lost through turbulent dissipation is less than the input into the local internal wave field. This suggests dissipation elsewhere, such as continental margins.

2005
MacKinnon, JA, Gregg MC.  2005.  Near-inertial waves on the New England shelf: The role of evolving stratification, turbulent dissipation, and bottom drag. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 35:2408-2424.   10.1175/jpo2822.1   AbstractWebsite

Energetic variable near-inertial internal waves were observed on the springtime New England shelf as part of the Coastal Mixing and Optics (CMO) project. Surface warming and freshwater advection tripled the average stratification during a 3-week observational period in April/May 1997. The wave field was dominated by near-inertial internal waves generated by passing storms. Wave evolution was controlled by a balance among wind stress, bottom drag, and turbulent dissipation. As the stratification evolved, the vertical structure of these near-inertial waves switched from mode 1 to mode 2 with associated changes in the magnitude and location of wave shear. The growth of mode-2 waves was attributable to a combination of changing wind stress forcing and a nonlinear coupling between the first and second vertical modes through quadratic bottom stress. To explore both forcing mechanisms, an open-ocean mixed layer model is adapted to the continental shelf. In this model, surface wind stress and bottom stress are distributed over the surface and bottom mixed layers and then projected onto orthogonal vertical modes. The model replicates the correct magnitude and evolving modal distribution of the internal waves and confirms that bottom stress can act to transfer energy between internal wave modes.