Intrinsic nonlinearity and spectral structure of internal tides at an idealized Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf break


Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2013. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Physical Oceanography 43 (2013): 2641–2660, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-12-0239.1.To quantify dynamical aspects of internal-tide generation at the Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf break, this study employs an idealized ocean model initialized by climatological summertime stratification and forced by monochromatic barotropic tidal currents at the offshore boundary. The Froude number of the scenario is subunity, and the bathymetric slope offshore of the shelf break is supercritical. A barotropic-to-baroclinic energy conversion rate of 335 W m−1 is found, with 14% of the energy locally dissipated through turbulence and bottom friction and 18% radiated onto the shelf. Consistent with prior studies, nonlinear effects result in additional super- and subharmonic internal waves at the shelf break. The subharmonic waves are subinertial, evanescent, and mostly trapped within a narrow beam of internal waves at the forcing frequency. They likely result from nonresonant triad interaction associated with strong nonlinearity. Strong vertical shear associated with the subharmonic waves tends to enhance local energy dissipation and turbulent momentum exchange (TME). A simulation with reduced tidal forcing shows an expected diminished level of harmonic energy. A quasi-linear simulation verifies the role of momentum advection in controlling the relative phases of internal tides and the efficiency of barotropic-to-baroclinic energy conversion. The local TME is tightly coupled with the internal-wave dynamics: for the chosen configuration, neglecting TME causes the internal-wave energy to be overestimated by 12%, and increasing it to high levels damps the waves on the continental shelf. This work implies a necessity to carefully consider nonlinearity and turbulent processes in the calculation of internal tidal waves generated at the shelf break.This research was supported by Office of Naval Research Grant N00014-11-1-0701.2014-06-0

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