Oceanic Internal Waves Are Not Weak Waves

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  • 1 Department of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle 98195
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Abstract

It is shown that the oceanic internal wave field is too energetic by roughly two orders of magnitude to be treated theoretically as an assemblage of weakly interacting waves. This may be seen both from recent weak wave theoretical calculations which contradict their premises and also from inspection of magnitudes of advection and wave propagation terms. Thus, much recent discussion of results of implications of weak wave theory should be questioned critically. Scaling arguments based on buoyant turbulence are reviewed briefly. The role of vertical mass flux as distinguishing weak wave interactions from stronger turbulence is discussed. Possible progress by renormalization of wave interaction equations is considered.

Abstract

It is shown that the oceanic internal wave field is too energetic by roughly two orders of magnitude to be treated theoretically as an assemblage of weakly interacting waves. This may be seen both from recent weak wave theoretical calculations which contradict their premises and also from inspection of magnitudes of advection and wave propagation terms. Thus, much recent discussion of results of implications of weak wave theory should be questioned critically. Scaling arguments based on buoyant turbulence are reviewed briefly. The role of vertical mass flux as distinguishing weak wave interactions from stronger turbulence is discussed. Possible progress by renormalization of wave interaction equations is considered.

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