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The Breaking and Scattering of the Internal Tide on a Continental Slope

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  • 1 School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  • | 2 Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 3 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
  • | 4 Department of Marine Science, Naval Academy, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • | 5 Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
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Abstract

A strong internal tide is generated in the Luzon Strait that radiates westward to impact the continental shelf of the South China Sea. Mooring data in 1500-m depth on the continental slope show a fortnightly averaged incoming tidal flux of 12 kW m−1, and a mooring on a broad plateau on the slope finds a similar flux as an upper bound. Of this, 5.5 kW m−1 is in the diurnal tide and 3.5 kW m−1 is in the semidiurnal tide, with the remainder in higher-frequency motions. Turbulence dissipation may be as high as 3 kW m−1. Local generation is estimated from a linear model to be less than 1 kW m−1. The continental slope is supercritical with respect to the diurnal tide, implying that there may be significant back reflection into the basin. Comparing the low-mode energy of a horizontal standing wave at the mooring to the energy flux indicates that perhaps one-third of the incoming diurnal tidal energy is reflected. Conversely, the slope is subcritical with respect to the semidiurnal tide, and the observed reflection is very weak. A surprising observation is that, despite significant diurnal vertical-mode-2 incident energy flux, this energy did not reflect; most of the reflection was in mode 1.

The observations are consistent with a linear scattering model for supercritical topography. Large fractions of incoming energy can reflect depending on both the geometry of the shelfbreak and the phase between the modal components of the incoming flux. If the incident mode-1 and mode-2 waves are in phase at the shelf break, there is substantial transmission onto the shelf; if they are out of phase, there is almost 100% reflection. The observations of the diurnal tide at the site are consistent with the first case: weak reflection, with most of it in mode 1 and almost no reflection in mode 2. The sensitivity of the reflection on the phase between incident components significantly complicates the prediction of reflections from continental shelves.

Finally, a somewhat incidental observation is that the shape of the continental slope has large regions that are near critical to the dominant diurnal tide. This implicates the internal tide in shaping of the continental slope.

Corresponding author address: Jody M. Klymak, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3055 STN CSC, Victoria BC V8W 3P6, Canada. E-mail: jklymak@uvic.ca

Abstract

A strong internal tide is generated in the Luzon Strait that radiates westward to impact the continental shelf of the South China Sea. Mooring data in 1500-m depth on the continental slope show a fortnightly averaged incoming tidal flux of 12 kW m−1, and a mooring on a broad plateau on the slope finds a similar flux as an upper bound. Of this, 5.5 kW m−1 is in the diurnal tide and 3.5 kW m−1 is in the semidiurnal tide, with the remainder in higher-frequency motions. Turbulence dissipation may be as high as 3 kW m−1. Local generation is estimated from a linear model to be less than 1 kW m−1. The continental slope is supercritical with respect to the diurnal tide, implying that there may be significant back reflection into the basin. Comparing the low-mode energy of a horizontal standing wave at the mooring to the energy flux indicates that perhaps one-third of the incoming diurnal tidal energy is reflected. Conversely, the slope is subcritical with respect to the semidiurnal tide, and the observed reflection is very weak. A surprising observation is that, despite significant diurnal vertical-mode-2 incident energy flux, this energy did not reflect; most of the reflection was in mode 1.

The observations are consistent with a linear scattering model for supercritical topography. Large fractions of incoming energy can reflect depending on both the geometry of the shelfbreak and the phase between the modal components of the incoming flux. If the incident mode-1 and mode-2 waves are in phase at the shelf break, there is substantial transmission onto the shelf; if they are out of phase, there is almost 100% reflection. The observations of the diurnal tide at the site are consistent with the first case: weak reflection, with most of it in mode 1 and almost no reflection in mode 2. The sensitivity of the reflection on the phase between incident components significantly complicates the prediction of reflections from continental shelves.

Finally, a somewhat incidental observation is that the shape of the continental slope has large regions that are near critical to the dominant diurnal tide. This implicates the internal tide in shaping of the continental slope.

Corresponding author address: Jody M. Klymak, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3055 STN CSC, Victoria BC V8W 3P6, Canada. E-mail: jklymak@uvic.ca
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