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John Mickett

Senior Oceanographer





Department Affiliation

Ocean Physics


Ph.D. Physical Oceanography, University of Washington-Seattle, 2007

M.S. Physical Oceanography, University of Washington-Seattle, 2002

B.S. Marine Science, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, 1994


Submesoscale Mixed-Layer Dynamics at a Mid-Latitude Oceanic Front

SMILE: the Submesoscale MIxed-Layer Eddies experiment

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1 Mar 2017

This experiment is aimed at increasing our understanding of the role of lateral processes in mixed-layer dynamics through a series of ship surveys and Lagrangian array deployments. Instrument deployments and surveys target the upper ocean's adjustment to winter atmospheric forcing events in the North Pacific subtropical front, roughly 800 km north of Hawaii.

This study will improve understanding of 1–10-km scale lateral processes in three-dimensional mixed-layer dynamics in a region of above-average atmospheric forcing, typical mid-ocean mesoscale advection and straining, and typical submesoscale activity. The results will improve the physical basis of mixed-layer parameterizations, leading to better model predictions of air-sea fluxes, gas transfer, and biological productivity.

Tasmania Internal Tide Experiment

The Tasmanian continental slope will be instrumented with a range of tools including moored profiler, chi-pods, CTDs, and gliders to understand the process, strength, and distribution of ocean mixing from breaking internal waves.

27 Nov 2011

Samoan Passage Abyssal Mixing

The Samoan Passage, 5500 m beneath the sea surface, is one of the "choke points" in the abyssal circulation. A veritable river of Antarctic Bottom water flows through it on its way into the North Pacific. As it enters the constriction, substantial turbulence, hydraulic processes and internal waves must occur, which modify the water. The overall goal is to understand these deep processes and the way they impact the flow, and to develop a strategy for eventually monitoring the flow through the Passage.

27 Sep 2011

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Environmental Sample Processor: A Sentry for Toxic Algal Blooms off the Washington Coast

An undersea robot that measures harmful algal species has been deployed by APL, UW, and NOAA researchers off the Washington coast near La Push. Algal bloom toxicity data are relayed to shore in near-real time and displayed through the NANOOS visualization system. The Environmental Sample Processor, or ESP, is taking measurements near the Juan de Fuca eddy, which is a known incubation site for toxic blooms that often travel toward coastal beaches, threatening fisheries and human health.

22 Jun 2016

ORCA Tracks the 'Blob'

A 'blob' of very warm surface water developed in the northeastern Pacific Ocean in 2014–2015 and its influence extended to the inland waters of Puget Sound throughout the summer of 2015. The unprecedented conditions were tracked by the ORCA (Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer) buoy network — an array of six heavily instrumented moored buoys in the Sound. ORCA data provided constant monitoring of evolving conditions and allowed scientists to warn of possible fish kill events in the oxygen-starved waters of Hood Canal well in advance.

The ORCA network is maintained by a partnership among APL-UW, the UW College of the Environment, and the UW School of Oceanography.

3 Nov 2015

ArcticMix 2015

APL-UW physical oceanographers John Mickett and Mike Gregg joined SIO colleagues during September 2015 in the Beaufort Sea aboard the R/V Sikuliaq to measure upper ocean mixing that billows heat from depth to the surface. These mixing dynamics may be an important factor in hastening sea ice melt during summer and delaying freeze-up in the fall.

14 Oct 2015

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2000-present and while at APL-UW

Tracking icebergs with time-lapse photography and sparse optical flow, LeConte Bay, Alaska, 2016–2017

Kienholz, C., and 9 others including J.B. Mickett, "Tracking icebergs with time-lapse photography and sparse optical flow, LeConte Bay, Alaska, 2016–2017," J. Glaciol., EOR, doi:10.1017/jog.2018.105, 2019.

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7 Mar 2019

We present a workflow to track icebergs in proglacial fjords using oblique time-lapse photos and the Lucas–Kanade optical flow algorithm. We employ the workflow at LeConte Bay, Alaska, where we ran five time-lapse cameras between April 2016 and September 2017, capturing more than 400 000 photos at frame rates of 0.5–4.0 min-1. Hourly to daily average velocity fields in map coordinates illustrate dynamic currents in the bay, with dominant downfjord velocities (exceeding 0.5 m s-1 intermittently) and several eddies. Comparisons with simultaneous Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) measurements yield best agreement for the uppermost ADCP levels (~ 12 m and above), in line with prevalent small icebergs that trace near-surface currents. Tracking results from multiple cameras compare favorably, although cameras with lower frame rates (0.5 min-1) tend to underestimate high flow speeds. Tests to determine requisite temporal and spatial image resolution confirm the importance of high image frame rates, while spatial resolution is of secondary importance. Application of our procedure to other fjords will be successful if iceberg concentrations are high enough and if the camera frame rates are sufficiently rapid (at least 1 min-1 for conditions similar to LeConte Bay).

Microstructure observations of turbulent heat fluxes in a warm-core Canada Basin eddy

Fine, E.C., J.A. MacKinnon, M.H. Alford, and J.B. Mickett, "Microstructure observations of turbulent heat fluxes in a warm-core Canada Basin eddy," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 48, 2397-2418, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-18-0028.1, 2018.

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1 Oct 2018

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°C, significantly warmer than the surrounding –1°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 ε was quite low [O (10-10 – 10-9) W kg-1]. However, at the edges of the eddy core, ε was elevated to O(10-8) W kg-1. Three different processes were associated with elevated ε. 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.

Generation and propagation of nonlinear internal waves in sheared currents over the Washington continental shelf

Hamann, M.M., M.H. Alford, and J.B. Mickett, "Generation and propagation of nonlinear internal waves in sheared currents over the Washington continental shelf," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 2381-2400, doi:10.1002/2017JC013388, 2018.

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1 Apr 2018

The generation, propagation, and dissipation of nonlinear internal waves (NLIW) in sheared background currents is examined using 7 days of shipboard microstructure surveys and two moorings on the continental shelf offshore of Washington state. Surveys near the hypothesized generation region show semi‐diurnal (D2) energy flux is onshore and that the ratio of energy flux to group speed times energy (F/cgE) increases sharply at the shelf break, suggesting that the incident D2 internal tide is partially reflected and partially transmitted. NLIW appear at an inshore mooring at the leading edge of the onshore phase of the baroclinic tide, consistent with nonlinear transformation of the shoaling internal tide as their generation mechanism. Of the D2 energy flux observed at the eastern extent of the generation region (133 ± 18 Wm-1), approximately 30% goes into the NLIW observed inshore (36 ± 11 Wm-1). Inshore of the moorings, 7 waves are tracked into shallow (30–40 m) water, where a vertically sheared, southward current becomes strong. As train‐like waves propagate onshore, wave amplitudes of 25–30 m and energies of 5 MJ decrease to 12 m and 10 kJ, respectively. The observed direction of propagation rotates from 30°N of E to ~30° S of E in the strongly sheared region. Linear ray tracing using the Taylor‐Goldstein equation to incorporate parallel shear effects accounts for only a small portion of the observed rotation, suggesting that three‐dimensionality of the wave crests and the background currents is important here.

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In The News

Ocean trash: What you need to know

KCTS9/EarthFix , Ken Christensen

Ocean currents carry man-made debris to remote corners of the planet—even to places mostly untouched by people. And that makes it difficult to clean up, as APL-UW's Senior Oceanographer John Mickett demonstrates during his recent sojourn to Vancouver Island, B.C. to recover a wayward research buoy.

11 Dec 2017

UW, NOAA deploy ocean robot to monitor harmful algal blooms off Washington coast

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

John Mickett, an oceanographer at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, led the deployment of the new instrument with Stephanie Moore, a scientist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, as part of a larger collaborative project.

25 May 2016

Buoy deployed in Bellingham Bay to chart health of Puget Sound

KING 5 News, Alison Morrow

Oceanographers deployed a buoy in Bellingham Bay on Thursday that will chart the health of Puget Sound. It joins a half-dozen other buoys, but this is the only one in the north Puget Sound. It is equipped with several pieces of advanced technology that will monitor everything from salinity, temperature and weather changes.

11 Feb 2016

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