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On the structure and propagation of internal solitary waves generated at the Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean

By J.C.B. da Silva, A.L. New and J.M. Magalhaes


The Mascarene Plateau in the Western Indian Ocean is identified as a new internal solitary wave hotspot. Satellite SAR images show that powerful internal waves radiate both to the West and East from a central sill near 12.5° S, 61° E between the Saya de Malha and Nazareth Banks. To first order, the waves appear in tidally generated packets on both sides of the sill, and those on the western side have crest-lengths in excess of 350 km, amongst the longest yet recorded anywhere in the world’s oceans. The propagation characteristics of these internal waves are well described by first mode linear waves interacting with background shear taken from the westward-flowing South Equatorial Current (SEC), a large part of which flows through the sill in question. Analysis of the timings and locations of the packets indicates that both the westward- and eastward- travelling waves are generated from the western side of the sill at the predicted time of maximum tidal flow to the West. The linear generation mechanism is therefore proposed as the splitting of a large lee wave that forms on the western side of the sill, in a similar manner to that already identified for the shelf break generation of internal waves in the northern Bay of Biscay. While lee waves should form on either side of the sill in an oscillatory tidal flow, that on the western side would be expected to be much larger than that on the eastern side because of a superposition of the tidal flow and the steady westward flow of the SEC. The existence of a large lee wave at the right time in the tidal cycle is then finally confirmed by direct observations. Our study also confirms the existence of second mode internal waves that form on the western side of the sill and travel across the sill towards the East

Year: 2011
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Provided by: e-Prints Soton

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