Publications

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2018
Fine, EC, MacKinnon JA, Alford MH, Mickett JB.  2018.  Microstructure observations of turbulent heat fluxes in a warm-core Canada Basin eddy. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 48:2397-2418.   10.1175/jpo-d-18-0028.1   AbstractWebsite

An intrahalocline eddy was observed on the Chukchi slope in September of 2015 using both towed CTD and microstructure temperature and shear sections. The core of the eddy was 6 degrees C, significantly warmer than the surrounding -1 degrees C water and far exceeding typical temperatures of warm-core Arctic eddies. Microstructure sections indicated that outside of the eddy the rate of dissipation of turbulent kinetic energy epsilon was quite low . Three different processes were associated with elevated epsilon. Double-diffusive steps were found at the eddy's top edge and were associated with an upward heat flux of 5 W m(-2). At the bottom edge of the eddy, shear-driven mixing played a modest role, generating a heat flux of approximately 0.5 W m(-2) downward. Along the sides of the eddy, density-compensated thermohaline intrusions transported heat laterally out of the eddy, with a horizontal heat flux of 2000 W m(-2). Integrating these fluxes over an idealized approximation of the eddy's shape, we estimate that the net heat transport due to thermohaline intrusions along the eddy flanks was 2 GW, while the double-diffusive flux above the eddy was 0.4 GW. Shear-driven mixing at the bottom of the eddy accounted for only 0.04 GW. If these processes continued indefinitely at the same rate, the estimated life-span would be 1-2 years. Such eddies may be an important mechanism for the transport of Pacific-origin heat, freshwater, and nutrients into the Canada Basin.

2017
Luecke, CA, Arbic BK, Bassette SL, Richman JG, Shriver JF, Alford MH, Smedstad OM, Timko PG, Trossman DS, Wallcraft AJ.  2017.  The global mesoscale eddy available potential energy field in models and observations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 122:9126-9143.   10.1002/2017jc013136   AbstractWebsite

Global maps of the mesoscale eddy available potential energy (EAPE) field at a depth of 500 m are created using potential density anomalies in a high-resolution 1/12.5 degrees global ocean model. Maps made from both a free-running simulation and a data-assimilative reanalysis of the HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) are compared with maps made by other researchers from density anomalies in Argo profiles. The HYCOM and Argo maps display similar features, especially in the dominance of western boundary currents. The reanalysis maps match the Argo maps more closely, demonstrating the added value of data assimilation. Global averages of the simulation, reanalysis, and Argo EAPE all agree to within about 10%. The model and Argo EAPE fields are compared to EAPE computed from temperature anomalies in a data set of moored historical observations (MHO) in conjunction with buoyancy frequencies computed from a global climatology. The MHO data set allows for an estimate of the EAPE in high-frequency motions that is aliased into the Argo EAPE values. At MHO locations, 15-32% of the EAPE in the Argo estimates is due to aliased motions having periods of 10 days or less. Spatial averages of EAPE in HYCOM, Argo, and MHO data agree to within 50% at MHO locations, with both model estimates lying within error bars observations. Analysis of the EAPE field in an idealized model, in conjunction with published theory, suggests that much of the scatter seen in comparisons of different EAPE estimates is to be expected given the chaotic, unpredictable nature of mesoscale eddies.

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.

2014
Alford, MH, Klymak JM, Carter GS.  2014.  Breaking internal lee waves at Kaena Ridge, Hawaii. Geophysical Research Letters. 41:906-912.   10.1002/2013GL059070   AbstractWebsite

Shallow water oscillatory flows and deep ocean steady flows have both been observed to give rise to breaking internal lee waves downstream of steep seafloor obstacles. A recent theory also predicts the existence of high-mode oscillatory internal lee waves in deep water, but they have not previously been directly observed. Here we present repeated spatial transects of velocity, isopycnal displacement, and dissipation rate measured with towed instruments on the south flank of a supercritical ridge in Hawaii known as Kaena Ridge and compare them with predictions from a 3-D numerical model with realistic tidal forcing, bathymetry, and stratification. The measured and modeled flow and turbulence agree well in their spatial structure, time dependence, and magnitude, confirming the existence and predicted nature of high-mode internal lee waves. Turbulence estimated from Thorpe scales increases 2 orders of magnitude following downslope tidal flow, when the internal lee wave begins to propagate upslope and breaks.

Alford, MH, MacCready P.  2014.  Flow and mixing in Juan de Fuca Canyon, Washington. Geophysical Research Letters. 41:1608-1615.   10.1002/2013GL058967   AbstractWebsite

We report breaking internal lee waves, strong mixing, and hydraulic control associated with wind-driven up-canyon flow in Juan de Fuca Canyon, Washington. Unlike the flow above the canyon rim, which shows a tidal modulation typical on continental shelves, the flow within the canyon is persistently up-canyon during our observations, with isopycnals tilted consistent with a geostrophic cross-canyon momentum balance. As the flow encounters a sill near the canyon entrance at the shelf break, it accelerates significantly and undergoes elevated mixing on the upstream and downstream sides of the sill. On the downstream side, a strong lee wave response is seen, with displacements of O(100 m) and overturns tens of meters high. The resulting diffusivity is O(10−2 m2 s−1), sufficient to substantially modify coastal water masses as they transit the canyon and enter the Salish Sea estuarine system.

2013
Alford, MH, Girton JB, Voet G, Carter GS, Mickett JB, Klymak JM.  2013.  Turbulent mixing and hydraulic control of abyssal water in the Samoan Passage. Geophysical Research Letters. 40:4668-4674.   10.1002/grl.50684   AbstractWebsite

We report the first direct turbulence observations in the Samoan Passage (SP), a 40km wide notch in the South Pacific bathymetry through which flows most of the water supplying the North Pacific abyssal circulation. The observed turbulence is 1000 to 10,000 times typical abyssal levels strong enough to completely mix away the densest water entering the passageconfirming inferences from previous coarser temperature and salinity sections. Accompanying towed measurements of velocity and temperature with horizontal resolution of about 250m indicate the dominant processes responsible for the turbulence. Specifically, the flow accelerates substantially at the primary sill within the passage, reaching speeds as great as 0.55m s(-1). A strong hydraulic response is seen, with layers first rising to clear the sill and then plunging hundreds of meters downward. Turbulence results from high shear at the interface above the densest fluid as it descends and from hydraulic jumps that form downstream of the sill. In addition to the primary sill, other locations along the multiple interconnected channels through the Samoan Passage also have an effect on the mixing of the dense water. In fact, quite different hydraulic responses and turbulence levels are observed at seafloor features separated laterally by a few kilometers, suggesting that abyssal mixing depends sensitively on bathymetric details on small scales.

Wain, DJ, Gregg MC, Alford MH, Lien RC, Hall RA, Carter GS.  2013.  Propagation and dissipation of the internal tide in upper Monterey Canyon. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 118:4855-4877.   10.1002/jgrc.20368   AbstractWebsite

Submarine canyons are sites of intense turbulence and mixing. Monterey Canyon cuts into the continental shelf off California, and is defined by its sinuous nature. Temperature, salinity, and current velocity measurements were made over 21 days in April 2009 with a depth-cycling towed body to understand internal tide propagation and dissipation through the canyon bends. Cross-canyon transects reveal complex flow patterns that follow large-scale bathymetry on scales greater than 5 km. Changes in thalweg direction deflect baroclinic energy flux, but the bends in the measurement region are too sharp for the flux to follow the thalweg. Ridges that form the bends in the canyon act as obstacles to the flow, and turbulent dissipation rates greater than 1 x 10(-5) m(2) s(-3) were observed on their flanks, especially at the largest meander (the Gooseneck). The canyon-integrated baroclinic energy flux increased from 2.7 MW at the most western section to 3.7 MW at the Gooseneck Ridge, which has a nearly critical bottom slope with respect to the semidiurnal baroclinic tide on the western side; baroclinic energy flux was 50% less on the eastern side of the ridge. While measured dissipation near the Gooseneck Meander was sufficient to explain the flux divergence, turbulence near the Gooseneck may have been undersampled. Between the Gooseneck Ridge and the most eastern cross-canyon transect, dissipation may account for the decrease in the energy flux; though a local energy balance does not hold, the energy budget is balanced over the larger scale of the measurement region east of the Gooseneck Ridge.

Alford, MH, Girton JB, Voet G, Carter GS, Mickett JB, Klymak JM.  2013.  Turbulent mixing and hydraulic control of abyssal water in the Samoan Passage. Geophysical Research Letters. 40:4668-4674.   10.1002/grl.50684   AbstractWebsite

We report the first direct turbulence observations in the Samoan Passage (SP), a 40 km wide notch in the South Pacific bathymetry through which flows most of the water supplying the North Pacific abyssal circulation. The observed turbulence is 1000 to 10,000 times typical abyssal levels —strong enough to completely mix away the densest water entering the passage—confirming inferences from previous coarser temperature and salinity sections. Accompanying towed measurements of velocity and temperature with horizontal resolution of about 250 m indicate the dominant processes responsible for the turbulence. Specifically, the flow accelerates substantially at the primary sill within the passage, reaching speeds as great as 0.55 m s−1. A strong hydraulic response is seen, with layers first rising to clear the sill and then plunging hundreds of meters downward. Turbulence results from high shear at the interface above the densest fluid as it descends and from hydraulic jumps that form downstream of the sill. In addition to the primary sill, other locations along the multiple interconnected channels through the Samoan Passage also have an effect on the mixing of the dense water. In fact, quite different hydraulic responses and turbulence levels are observed at seafloor features separated laterally by a few kilometers, suggesting that abyssal mixing depends sensitively on bathymetric details on small scales.

2012
Gregg, MC, Alford MH, Kontoyiannis H, Zervakis V, Winkel D.  2012.  Mixing over the steep side of the Cycladic Plateau in the Aegean Sea. Journal of Marine Systems. 89:30-47.   http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmarsys.2011.07.009   AbstractWebsite

Intensive microstructure sampling over the southern slope of the Cycladic Plateau found very weak mixing in the pycnocline, centered on a thin minimum of diapycnal diffusivity with K ρ = 1.5 × 10 − 6 m2 s− 1. Below the pycnocline, K ρ increased exponentially in the bottom 200 m, reaching 1 × 10− 4 m2 s− 1 a few meters above the bottom. Near-bottom mixing was most intense where the bottom slope equaled the characteristic slope of the semi-diurnal internal tide. This suggests internal wave scattering and/or generation at the bottom, a conclusion supported by near-bottom dissipation rates increasing following rising winds and with intensifying internal waves. Several pinnacles on the slope were local mixing hotspots. Signatures included a vertical line of strong mixing in a pinnacle's wake, an hydraulic jump or lee wave over a downstream side of the summit, and a ‘beam’ sloping upward at the near-inertial characteristic slope. Because dissipation rate averages were dominated by strong turbulence, ϵ/νN2 > 100, the effect on K ρ of alternate mixing efficiencies proposed for this range of turbulent intensity is explored.

Alford, MH, Gregg MC, Zervakis V, Kontoyiannis H.  2012.  Internal wave measurements on the Cycladic Plateau of the Aegean Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 117:C01015.   10.1029/2011JC007488   AbstractWebsite

The internal wave climate in the southern Aegean Sea is examined with an array of two bottom-mounted acoustic Doppler current profilers and three profiling moorings deployed on the northern continental slope of the Cretan Sea for 3 months. Frequency spectra indicate an extremely weak internal wave continuum, about 4–10 times weaker than the Garrett-Munk and Levine reference levels. Spectra are instead dominated by semidiurnal internal tides and near-inertial waves, which are examined in detail by bandpass filtering. In the semidiurnal band, a barotropic tidal flow of ≈2 cm s−1 is observed, with a pronounced spring/neap modulation in phase with the lunar fortnightly cycle. One to two days following several of these spring tide periods, a distinct internal tide featuring 10–20 m vertical displacements and 15–20 cm s−1baroclinic velocities is detectable propagating upward and to the southeast. Time-mean energy increases a factor of 2–5 within about 100 m from the bottom, implying generation and/or scattering from the bottom, whose slope is nearly critical to semidiurnal internal waves over much of the array. Several strong, downward propagating near-inertial events are also seen, each of which occurs following a period of work done by the wind on the mixed layer as estimated from a nearby surface mooring. The high-frequency internal wave continuum is more temporally constant but increases substantially toward the end of the deployment. Significant but unexplained differences in kinetic energy occur between successive spring tide periods in the case of the internal tides and between successive wind events in the case of the near-inertial signals. Substantial variability is observed in the low-frequency flows, which likely contributes to the time variability of the internal wave signals.

2011
Gregg, MC, Hall RA, Carter GS, Alford MH, Lien RC, Winkel DP, Wain DJ.  2011.  Flow and mixing in Ascension, a steep, narrow canyon. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 116:C07016.   10.1029/2010JC006610   AbstractWebsite

A thin gash in the continental slope northwest of Monterey Bay, Ascension Canyon, is steep, with sides and axis both strongly supercritical to M2 internal tides. A hydrostatic model forced with eight tidal constituents shows no major sources feeding energy into the canyon, but significant energy is exchanged between barotropic and baroclinic flows along the tops of the sides, where slopes are critical. Average turbulent dissipation rates observed near spring tide during April are half as large as a two week average measured during August in Monterey Canyon. Owing to Ascension's weaker stratification, however, its average diapycnal diffusivity, 3.9 × 10−3 m2 s−1, exceeded the 2.5 × 10−3 m2 s−1 found in Monterey. Most of the dissipation occurred near the bottom, apparently associated with an internal bore, and just below the rim, where sustained cross-canyon flow may have been generating lee waves or rotors. The near-bottom mixing decreased sharply around Ascension's one bend, as did vertically integrated baroclinic energy fluxes. Dissipation had a minor effect on energetics, which were controlled by flux divergences and convergences and temporal changes in energy density. In Ascension, the observed dissipation rate near spring tide was 2.1 times that predicted from a simulation using eight tidal constituents averaged over a fortnightly period. The same observation was 1.5 times the average of an M2-only prediction. In Monterey, the previous observed average was 4.9 times the average of an M2-only prediction.

2008
Alford, MH.  2008.  Observations of parametric subharmonic instability of the diurnal internal tide in the South China Sea. Geophysical Research Letters. 35:L15602.   10.1029/2008GL034720   AbstractWebsite

Shipboard observations are presented that suggest the occurrence of parametric subharmonic instability (PSI) of diurnal K1 and O1 internal tides at “critical” latitudes of 14.52°N and 13.44°N, respectively. In a transect spanning 12.5–18°N, depth-mean shear squared shows sharp peaks at 14.52°N (elevated relative to that at 15°N by a factor of ten) and at 13.44°N (by a factor of 7). Wind speed measured from the ship and Quikscat scatterometer during and before the transect was <10 m s−1 at these latitudes. Eight-hour time series (about 1/6 of an inertial period) of shear and isopycnal depth at 14.52°N are sufficient to associate the elevated shear with alternating, clockwise-rotating layers analogous to those observed at the M2 critical latitude of 28.8°N.

2007
Nash, JD, Alford MH, Kunze E, Martini K, Kelly S.  2007.  Hotspots of deep ocean mixing on the Oregon continental slope. Geophysical Research Letters. 34:L01605.   10.1029/2006GL028170   AbstractWebsite

Two deep ocean hotspots of turbulent mixing were found over the Oregon continental slope. Thorpe-scale analyses indicate time-averaged turbulent energy dissipation rates of ε > 10−7 W/kg and eddy diffusivities of Kρ ∼ 10−2 m2/s at both hotspots. However, the structure of turbulence and its generation mechanism at each site appear to be different. At the 2200-m isobath, sustained >100-m high turbulent overturns occur in stratified fluid several hundred meters above the bottom. Turbulence shows a clear 12.4-h periodicity proposed to be driven by flow over a nearby 100-m tall ridge. At the 1300-m isobath, tidally-modulated turbulence of similar intensity is confined within a stratified bottom boundary layer. Along-slope topographic roughness at scales not resolved in global bathymetric data sets appears to be responsible for the bulk of the turbulence observed. Such topography is common to most continental slopes, providing a mechanism for turbulence generation in regions where barotropic tidal currents are nominally along-isobath.