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On the Momentum Flux of Internal Tides

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  • 1 Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • | 2 Research School of Earth Sciences, and ARC Centre of Excellence in Climate Extremes, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
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Abstract

The action of the barotropic tide over seafloor topography is the major source of internal waves at the bottom of the ocean. This internal tide has long been recognized to play an important role in ocean mixing. Here it is shown that the internal tide is also associated with a net (domain integrated) momentum flux. The net flux occurs as a result of the Doppler shifting of the internal tide at the point of generation by near-bottom mean flows. Linear theory is presented that predicts the amplitude of the wave momentum flux. The net flux scales with the bottom flow speed and the topographic wavenumber to the fourth power and is directed opposite to the bottom flow. For realistic topography, the predicted peak momentum flux occurs at scales of order 10 km and smaller, with magnitudes of order 10−3–10−2 N m−2. The theory is verified by comparison with a suite of idealized internal wave-resolving simulations. The simulations show that, for the topography considered, the wave momentum flux radiates away from the bottom and enhances mean and eddying flow when the tidal waves dissipate in the upper ocean. Our results suggest that internal tides may play an important role in forcing the upper ocean.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Callum J. Shakespeare, callum.shakespeare@anu.edu.au

Abstract

The action of the barotropic tide over seafloor topography is the major source of internal waves at the bottom of the ocean. This internal tide has long been recognized to play an important role in ocean mixing. Here it is shown that the internal tide is also associated with a net (domain integrated) momentum flux. The net flux occurs as a result of the Doppler shifting of the internal tide at the point of generation by near-bottom mean flows. Linear theory is presented that predicts the amplitude of the wave momentum flux. The net flux scales with the bottom flow speed and the topographic wavenumber to the fourth power and is directed opposite to the bottom flow. For realistic topography, the predicted peak momentum flux occurs at scales of order 10 km and smaller, with magnitudes of order 10−3–10−2 N m−2. The theory is verified by comparison with a suite of idealized internal wave-resolving simulations. The simulations show that, for the topography considered, the wave momentum flux radiates away from the bottom and enhances mean and eddying flow when the tidal waves dissipate in the upper ocean. Our results suggest that internal tides may play an important role in forcing the upper ocean.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Callum J. Shakespeare, callum.shakespeare@anu.edu.au
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