Publications

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2011
Zhao, ZX, Alford MH, Girton J, Johnston TMS, Carter G.  2011.  Internal tides around the Hawaiian Ridge estimated from multisatellite altimetry. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 116   10.1029/2011jc007045   AbstractWebsite

Satellite altimetric sea surface height anomaly (SSHA) data from Geosat Follow-on (GFO) and European Remote Sensing (ERS), as well as TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P), are merged to estimate M(2) internal tides around the Hawaiian Ridge, with higher spatial resolution than possible with single-satellite altimetry. The new estimates are compared with numerical model runs. Along-track analyses show that M(2) internal tides can be resolved from both 8 years of GFO and 15.5 years of ERS SSHA data. Comparisons at crossover points reveal that the M(2) estimates from T/P, GFO, and ERS agree well. Multisatellite altimetry improves spatial resolution due to its denser ground tracks. Thus M(2) internal tides can be plane wave fitted in 120 km x 120 km regions, compared to previous single-satellite estimates in 4 degrees lon x 3 degrees lat or 250 km x 250 km regions. In such small fitting regions the weaker and smaller-scale mode 2 M(2) internal tides can also be estimated. The higher spatial resolution leads to a clearer view of the M(2) internal tide field around the Hawaiian Ridge. Discrete generation sites and internal tidal beams are clearly distinguishable, and consistent with the numerical model runs. More importantly, multisatellite altimetry produces larger M(2) internal tidal energy fluxes, which agree better with model results, than previous single-satellite estimates. This study confirms that previous altimetric underestimates are partly due to the more widely spaced ground tracks and consequently larger fitting region. Multisatellite altimetry largely overcomes this limitation.

2010
Rainville, L, Johnston TMS, Carter GS, Merrifield MA, Pinkel R, Worcester PF, Dushaw BD.  2010.  Interference Pattern and Propagation of the M(2) Internal Tide South of the Hawaiian Ridge. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 40:311-325.   10.1175/2009jpo4256.1   AbstractWebsite

Most of the M(2) internal tide energy generated at the Hawaiian Ridge radiates away in modes 1 and 2, but direct observation of these propagating waves is complicated by the complexity of the bathymetry at the generation region and by the presence of interference patterns. Observations from satellite altimetry, a tomographic array, and the R/P FLIP taken during the Farfield Program of the Hawaiian Ocean Mixing Experiment (HOME) are found to be in good agreement with the output of a high-resolution primitive equation model, simulating the generation and propagation of internal tides. The model shows that different modes are generated with different amplitudes along complex topography. Multiple sources produce internal tides that sum constructively and destructively as they propagate. The major generation sites can be identified using a simplified 2D idealized knife-edge ridge model. Four line sources located on the Hawaiian Ridge reproduce the interference pattern of sea surface height and energy flux density fields from the numerical model for modes 1 and 2. Waves from multiple sources and their interference pattern have to be taken into account to correctly interpret in situ observations and satellite altimetry.

2009
Johnston, TMS, Rudnick DL.  2009.  Observations of the Transition Layer. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 39:780-797.   10.1175/2008jpo3824.1   AbstractWebsite

The transition layer is the poorly understood interface between the stratified, weakly turbulent interior and the strongly turbulent surface mixed layer. The transition layer displays elevated thermohaline variance compared to the interior and maxima in current shear, vertical stratification, and potential vorticity. A database of 91 916 km or 25 426 vertical profiles of temperature and salinity from SeaSoar, a towed vehicle, is used to define the transition layer thickness. Acoustic Doppler current measurements are also used, when available. Statistics of the transition layer thickness are compared for 232 straight SeaSoar sections, which range in length from 65 to 1129 km with typical horizontal resolution of; 4 km and vertical resolution of 8 m. Transition layer thicknesses are calculated in three groups from 1) vertical displacements of the mixed layer base and of interior isopycnals into the mixed layer; 2) the depths below the mixed layer depth of peaks in shear, stratification, and potential vorticity and their widths; and 3) the depths below or above the mixed layer depth of extrema in thermohaline variance, density ratio, and isopycnal slope. From each SeaSoar section, the authors compile either a single value or a median value for each of the above measures. Each definition yields a median transition layer thickness from 8 to 24 m below the mixed layer depth. The only exception is the median depth of the maximum isopycnal slope, which is 37 m above the mixed layer base, but its mode is 15-25 m above the mixed layer base. Although the depths of the stratification, shear, and potential vorticity peaks below the mixed layer are not correlated with the mixed layer depth, the widths of the shear and potential vorticity peaks are. Transition layer thicknesses from displacements and the full width at half maximum of the shear and potential vorticity peak give transition layer thicknesses from 0.11X to 0.22X the mean depth of the mixed layer. From individual profiles, the depth of the shear peak below the stratification peak has a median value of 6 m, which shows that momentum fluxes penetrate farther than buoyancy fluxes. A typical horizontal scale of 5-10 km for the transition layer comes from the product of the isopycnal slope and a transition layer thickness suggesting the importance of submesoscale processes in forming the transition layer. Two possible parameterizations for transition layer thickness are 1) a constant of 11-24 m below the mixed layer depth as found for the shear, stratification, potential vorticity, and thermohaline variance maxima and the density ratio extrema; and 2) a linear function of mixed layer depth as found for isopycnal displacements and the widths of the shear and potential vorticity peaks.

2003
Johnston, TMS, Merrifield MA.  2003.  Internal tide scattering at seamounts, ridges, and islands. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 108   10.1029/2002jc001528   AbstractWebsite

[1] The scattering of mode-1 internal tides from idealized Gaussian topography in a nonrotating ocean with constant and realistic stratifications is examined with a primitive equation numerical model. Incident mode-1 energy fluxes of 20 and 2000 W m(-1) are used to examine the linear regime and a more realistic situation. Simulations using two-dimensional or infinite ridges compare well with ray tracing methods and illustrate how the size and shape of the topography influence wave scattering. The height affects energy transmission and reflection, while the slope and width determine the conversion of low-mode internal tides into beams or higher modes. Three-dimensional topographic scattering is considered for seamounts, finite-width ridges, and islands. Scattering from finite ridges focuses wave energy directly downstream, while scattering from seamounts produces azimuthal energy dispersion. Scattering to higher wave modes occurs in the lee of near-critical and supercritical seamounts and ridges. Nonlinear interactions transfer energy into the mode-1 M-4 internal tide. The Mellor-Yamada level-2.5 submodel parameterizes turbulent mixing. For the near-critical and supercritical ridges with realistic stratification, elevated mixing is found over the leading edge of the topography and along a tidal beam up to the first surface bounce. A transition from a beam structure near the topography to a low-mode structure farther away occurs due to an increased contribution from the mode-1 internal tide as it refracts around the topography and not due to turbulent dissipation. Internal tide scattering at topography leads to a loss of energy to mixing and to a redistribution of energy flux in space, frequency, and mode number.