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Mike Gregg

Professor Emeritus, Oceanography

Professor, Oceanography






The idea that the cumulative action of centimeter-scale mixing affects the ocean's largest scales guides Mike Gregg's research. Evolving technology now enables the mixing to be put into the context of the meter-to-kilometer-scale processes directly producing it, such as internal waves, bottom and surface boundary layers, thermohaline staircases and intrusions, and hydraulic responses to flow constrictions. Because large-scale models, particularly coupled climate models, have grid scales vastly larger than those of the mixing and even of the intermediate-scale processes producing it, it is a goal to always try to work toward parameterizations that can be used in these models.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Physics


B.S. Physics, Yale University, 1961

Ph.D. Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1971


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Ocean Mixing

Gregg, M.C., "Ocean Mixing" (Cambridge University Press, 2021) 378 pp.

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1 Mar 2021

The stratified ocean mixes episodically in small patches where energy is dissipated and density smoothed over scales of centimeters. The net effect of these countless events effects the shape of the ocean's thermocline, how heat is transported from the sea surface to the interior, and how dense bottom water is lifted into the global overturning circulation. This book explores the primary factors affecting mixing, beginning with the thermodynamics of seawater, how they vary in the ocean and how they depend on the physical properties of seawater. Turbulence and double diffusion are then discussed, which determines how mixing evolves and the different impacts it has on velocity, temperature, and salinity. It reviews insights from both laboratory studies and numerical modelling, emphasising the assumptions and limitations of these methods. This is an excellent reference for researchers and graduate students working to advance our understanding of mixing, including oceanographers, atmospheric scientists and limnologists.

Variations of equatorial shear, stratification, and turbulence within a tropical instability wave cycle

Inoue, R., R.-C. Lien, J.N. Moum, R.C. Perez, and M.C. Gregg, "Variations of equatorial shear, stratification, and turbulence within a tropical instability wave cycle," J. Geophys. Res., 124, 1858-1875, doi:10.1029/2018JC014480, 2019.

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1 Mar 2019

Equatorial Internal Wave Experiment observations at 0°, 140°W from October 2008 to February 2009 captured modulations of shear, stratification, and turbulence above the Equatorial Undercurrent by a series of tropical instability waves (TIWs). Analyzing these observations in terms of a four‐phase TIW cycle, we found that shear and stratification within the deep‐cycle layer being weakest in the middle of the N–S phase (transition from northward to southward flow) and strongest in the late S phase (southward flow) and the early S–N phase (transition from southward to northward flow). Turbulence was modulated but showed less dependence on the TIW cycle. The vertical diffusivity (KT) was largest during the N (northward flow) and N–S phases, when stratification was weak, despite weak shear, and was smallest from the late S phase to the S‐N phase, when stratification was strong, despite strong shear. This tendency was less clear in turbulent heat flux because vertical temperature gradients were small at times when KT was large, and large when KT was small. We investigated the dynamics of shear and stratification variations within the TIW cycle by using an ocean general circulation model forced with observed winds. The model successfully reproduced the observed strong shear and stratification in the S phase, except for a small phase difference. The strong shear is explained by vortex stretching by TIWs. The strong stratification is explained by meridional and vertical advection.

Mixing efficiency in the ocean

Gregg, M.C., E.A. D'Asaro, J.J. Riley, and E. Kunze, "Mixing efficiency in the ocean," Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci., 10, 443-473, doi:10.1146/annurev-marine-121916-063643, 2018.

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1 Jan 2018

Mixing efficiency is the ratio of the net change in potential energy to the energy expended in producing the mixing. Parameterizations of efficiency and of related mixing coefficients are needed to estimate diapycnal diffusivity from measurements of the turbulent dissipation rate. Comparing diffusivities from microstructure profiling with those inferred from the thickening rate of four simultaneous tracer releases has verified, within observational accuracy, 0.2 as the mixing coefficient over a 30-fold range of diapycnal diffusivities. Although some mixing coefficients can be estimated from pycnocline measurements, at present mixing efficiency must be obtained from channel flows, laboratory experiments, and numerical simulations. Reviewing the different approaches demonstrates that estimates and parameterizations for mixing efficiency and coefficients are not converging beyond the at-sea comparisons with tracer releases, leading to recommendations for a community approach to address this important issue.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center