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High-Frequency Internal Waves on the Oregon Continental Shelf

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  • 1 Applied Physics Laboratory, and School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 Applied Physics Laboratory, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Measurements of vertical velocity by isopycnal-following, neutrally buoyant floats deployed on the Oregon shelf during the summers of 2000 and 2001 were used to characterize internal gravity waves on the shelf using measurements of vertical velocity. The average spectrum of Wentzel–Kramers–Brillouin (WKB)-scaled vertical kinetic energy has the level predicted by the Garrett–Munk model (GM79), plus a narrow M2 tidal peak and a broad high-frequency peak extending from about 0.1N to N and rising a decade above GM79. The high-frequency peak varies in energy coherently with time across its entire bandwidth. Its energy is independent of the tidal energy. The energy in the “continuum” region between the peaks is weakly correlated with the level of the high-frequency peak energy and is independent of the tidal peak energy. The vertical velocity is not Gaussian but is highly intermittent, with a calculated kurtosis of 19. The vertical kinetic energy varies geographically. Low energy is found offshore and nearshore. The highest energy is found near a small seamount. High energy is found over the rough topography of Heceta Bank and near the shelf break. The highest energy occurs as packets of high-frequency waves, often occurring on the sharp downward phase of the M2 internal tide and called “tidal solibores.” A few isolated waves with high energy are also found. Of the 1-h periods with the highest vertical kinetic energy, 31% are tidal solibores, 8% are isolated waves, and the remainder of the periods appear unorganized. The two most energetic tidal solibores were examined in detail. As compared with the steady, propagating, two-dimensional, inviscid, internal-wave solutions to the equations of motion with no background shear [i.e., the Dubreil–Jacotin–Long (DJL) equation], all but the most energetic observed waveforms are too narrow for their height to be solitary waves. Despite the large near-N peak in vertical kinetic energy, the M2 internal tide contributes over 80% of the energy, ignoring near-inertial waves. The tidal solibores make a very small contribution, 0.5%, to the overall internal-wave energy.

Corresponding author address: E. A. D’Asaro, Applied Physics Laboratory, 1013 NE 40th St., Seattle, WA 98105. Email: dasaro@apl.washington.edu

Abstract

Measurements of vertical velocity by isopycnal-following, neutrally buoyant floats deployed on the Oregon shelf during the summers of 2000 and 2001 were used to characterize internal gravity waves on the shelf using measurements of vertical velocity. The average spectrum of Wentzel–Kramers–Brillouin (WKB)-scaled vertical kinetic energy has the level predicted by the Garrett–Munk model (GM79), plus a narrow M2 tidal peak and a broad high-frequency peak extending from about 0.1N to N and rising a decade above GM79. The high-frequency peak varies in energy coherently with time across its entire bandwidth. Its energy is independent of the tidal energy. The energy in the “continuum” region between the peaks is weakly correlated with the level of the high-frequency peak energy and is independent of the tidal peak energy. The vertical velocity is not Gaussian but is highly intermittent, with a calculated kurtosis of 19. The vertical kinetic energy varies geographically. Low energy is found offshore and nearshore. The highest energy is found near a small seamount. High energy is found over the rough topography of Heceta Bank and near the shelf break. The highest energy occurs as packets of high-frequency waves, often occurring on the sharp downward phase of the M2 internal tide and called “tidal solibores.” A few isolated waves with high energy are also found. Of the 1-h periods with the highest vertical kinetic energy, 31% are tidal solibores, 8% are isolated waves, and the remainder of the periods appear unorganized. The two most energetic tidal solibores were examined in detail. As compared with the steady, propagating, two-dimensional, inviscid, internal-wave solutions to the equations of motion with no background shear [i.e., the Dubreil–Jacotin–Long (DJL) equation], all but the most energetic observed waveforms are too narrow for their height to be solitary waves. Despite the large near-N peak in vertical kinetic energy, the M2 internal tide contributes over 80% of the energy, ignoring near-inertial waves. The tidal solibores make a very small contribution, 0.5%, to the overall internal-wave energy.

Corresponding author address: E. A. D’Asaro, Applied Physics Laboratory, 1013 NE 40th St., Seattle, WA 98105. Email: dasaro@apl.washington.edu

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