Associate Professor of Marine Science ° Physical Oceanography
School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS)
905 N. Koyukuk Drive
PO Box 757220
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220
office: 129 O'Neill
Biographical Sketch: Harper Simmons is a physical oceanographer at the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He was born and raised in Fairbanks Alaska. After studying first theater design, and then sculpture at the University of Hawaii and the University of Alaska, he received a batchelor's degree in Physics from the University of Alaska. This was followed by a degree in Coastal Hydrology, studying with Prof. Robert Carlson of the UAF Civil Engineering department. He obtained his PhD in Physical Oceanography in 2000, conducting theoretical investigations into the breakdown of ocean vortices. After postdoctoral studies at the University of Victoria with Prof. Andrew Weaver, he was a faculty member at the International Arctic Research Center. He joined SFOS in Fall 2008.
Current research interests
Physical oceanographers seek an understanding of how and why the ocean stores and circulates heat and materials such as salts, and how this storage and circulation evolves over time. The scientific challenge that physical oceanographers wrestle with is how to obtain a unified description of dynamical processes occuring over an immense range of spatial and temporal scales.
Observations: Field work in the Arctic is conducted under the aegis of the NABOS  project, where my interest ranges from the shortest and smallest space and timescales to understanding of the broadest "mean" state of the Arctic Ocean. A field experiment to study the life-cycle of nonlinear internal waves in the South China Sea was carried out in 2007 as part of the Office of Naval Research's Nonlinear Internal Wave Initiative (NLIWI). In partnership with NABOS, a multiple-mooring field program to study the ice-covered ocean response to atmospheric systems (ICORTAS) with multiple moorings were be deployed in the Beaufort Sea in the Fall of 2008 and recovered in the fall of 2009.
Numerical simulations: Internal waves and their evolution are an important mechanism responsible for conveying energy from the largest scales of motion to the smallest, where oceanic mechanical energy is ultimately converted to heat. A recent paper (pdf - 1.6 MB) investigates the energy cycle of waves generated by tidal flow over topographic variations, using an extremely high resolution numerical model. A supplemental figure (pdf - 1.9 MB) is of much higher quality than that supplied in the paper. The Arctic Regional Supercomputer Center ( ARSC ) has written a nice article on our research. Simulations of the internal tide in the South China Sea compliment and guide observations planned there in 2007. ICORTAS (above) will also encompass numerical modeling and theoretical investigation.
Numerical modeling of the ice-ocean system in collaboration with NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory is directed towards mult-institutional collaborative model-intercomparison projects. This project has since evolved into the CLIVAR Common Ocean Reference Experiments (CORE ) conducted in collaboration with GFDL and NCAR scientists for use by the international modeling community.