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Matthew D. Rayson, Nicole L. Jones, and Gregory N. Ivey

Abstract

Large-amplitude mode-2 nonlinear internal waves were observed in 250-m-deep water on the Australian North West shelf. Wave amplitudes were derived from temperature measurements using three through-the-water-column moorings spaced 600 m apart in a triangular configuration. The moorings were deployed for 2 months during the transition period between the tropical monsoon and the dry season. The site had a 25–30-m-amplitude mode-1 internal tide that essentially followed the spring–neap tidal cycle. Regular mode-2 nonlinear wave trains with amplitudes exceeding 25 m, with the largest event exceeding 50 m, were also observed at the site. Overturning was observed during several mode-2 events, and the relatively high wave Froude number and steepness (0.15) suggested kinematic (convective) instability was likely to be the driving mechanism. The presence of the mode-2 waves was not correlated with the tidal forcing but rather occurred when the nonlinear steepening length scale was smaller than the distance from the generation region to the observation site. This steepening length scale is inversely proportional to the nonlinear parameter in the Korteweg–de Vries equation, and it varied by at least one order of magnitude under the evolving background thermal stratification over the observation period. Despite the complexity of the internal waves in the region, the nonlinear steepening length was shown to be a reliable indicator for the formation of large-amplitude mode-2 waves and the rarer occurrence of mode-1 large-amplitude waves. A local mode-2 generation mechanism caused by a beam interacting with a pycnocline is demonstrated using a fully nonlinear numerical solution.

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Yankun Gong, Matthew D. Rayson, Nicole L. Jones, and Gregory N. Ivey

Abstract

Internal tide generation at sloping topography is nominally determined by the local slope geometry, density stratification, and tidal forcing. Recent global ocean models have revealed that remotely generated internal tides (RITs) can also influence locally generated internal tides (LITs). Field measurements with through-the-water column moorings on the southern portion of the Australian North West Shelf (NWS) suggested that RITs led to local regions with either positive or negative barotropic to baroclinic energy conversion. Three-dimensional numerical simulations were used to examine the role of RITs on local internal tide climatology on the inner slope and shelf portion of the NWS. The model demonstrated the principle remote generation site was the western portion of the offshore Exmouth Plateau. Extending the model domain to include this offshore plateau region increased the local net energy conversion on the inner shelf by 13.5% and on the slope by 8%. Simulations using an idealized 2D model configuration aligned along the principal direction of RIT propagation demonstrated that the sign and magnitude of the local energy conversion was dependent on the distance between the remote and local generation sites, the phase difference between the local barotropic tide and the RIT, and the amplitude of both the local barotropic tide and the RIT. For RITs with a low-wave Froude number (Fr < 0.05), where Fr is the ratio of the internal wave baroclinic velocity to the linear wave speed, the conversion rates were consistent with kinematic predictions based on the phase difference only. For stronger flows with Fr > 0.05, the conversion rates showed a nonlinear dependence on Fr.

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Samuel M. Kelly, Nicole L. Jones, Gregory N. Ivey, and Ryan J. Lowe

Abstract

Spectral analyses of two 3.5-yr mooring records from the Timor Sea quantified the coherence of mode-0 (surface) and mode-1 (internal) tides with the astronomical tidal potential. The noncoherent tides had well-defined variance and were most accurately quantified for tidal species (as opposed to constituents) in long records (>6 months). On the continental slope (465 m), the semidiurnal mode-0 and mode-1 velocity and mode-1 pressure variance were 95%, 68%, and 56% coherent, respectively. On the continental shelf (145 m), the semidiurnal mode-0 and mode-1 velocity and mode-1 pressure variance were 98%, 34%, and 42% coherent, respectively. The response method produced time series of the semidiurnal coherent and noncoherent tides. The spectra and decorrelation time scales of the semidiurnal tidal amplitudes were similar to those of the barotropic mean flow and mode-1 eigenspeed (~4 days), suggesting local mesoscale variability shapes noncoherent tidal variability. Over long time scales (>30 days), mode-1 sea surface displacement amplitudes were positively correlated with mode-1 eigenspeed on the shelf. At both moorings, internal tides were likely modulated during both generation and propagation. Self-prediction using the response method enabled about 75% of semidiurnal mode-1 sea surface displacement to be predicted 2.5 days in advance. Improved prediction models will require realistic tide–topography coupling and background variability with both short and long time scales.

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Tamara L. Schlosser, Nicole L. Jones, Ruth C. Musgrave, Cynthia E. Bluteau, Gregory N. Ivey, and Andrew J. Lucas

Abstract

Using 18 days of field observations, we investigate the diurnal (D1) frequency wave dynamics on the Tasmanian eastern continental shelf. At this latitude, the D1 frequency is subinertial and separable from the highly energetic near-inertial motion. We use a linear coastal-trapped wave (CTW) solution with the observed background current, stratification, and shelf bathymetry to determine the modal structure of the first three resonant CTWs. We associate the observed D1 velocity with a superimposed mode-zero and mode-one CTW, with mode one dominating mode zero. Both the observed and mode-one D1 velocity was intensified near the thermocline, with stronger velocities occurring when the thermocline stratification was stronger and/or the thermocline was deeper (up to the shelfbreak depth). The CTW modal structure and amplitude varied with the background stratification and alongshore current, with no spring–neap relationship evident for the observed 18 days. Within the surface and bottom Ekman layers on the shelf, the observed velocity phase changed in the cross-shelf and/or vertical directions, inconsistent with an alongshore propagating CTW. In the near-surface and near-bottom regions, the linear CTW solution also did not match the observed velocity, particularly within the bottom Ekman layer. Boundary layer processes were likely causing this observed inconsistency with linear CTW theory. As linear CTW solutions have an idealized representation of boundary dynamics, they should be cautiously applied on the shelf.

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Tamara L. Schlosser, Nicole L. Jones, Cynthia E. Bluteau, Matthew H. Alford, Gregory N. Ivey, and Andrew J. Lucas

Abstract

Near-inertial waves (NIWs) are often an energetic component of the internal wave field on windy continental shelves. The effect of baroclinic geostrophic currents, which introduce both relative vorticity and baroclinicity, on NIWs is not well understood. Relative vorticity affects the resonant frequency f eff, while both relative vorticity and baroclinicity modify the minimum wave frequency of freely propagating waves ω min. On a windy and narrow shelf, we observed wind-forced oscillations that generated NIWs where f eff was less than the Coriolis frequency f. If everywhere f eff > f then NIWs were generated where ω min < f and f eff was smallest. The background current not only affected the location of generation, but also the NIWs’ propagation direction. The estimated NIW energy fluxes show that NIWs propagated predominantly toward the equator because ω min > f on the continental slope for the entire sample period. In addition to being laterally trapped on the shelf, we observed vertically trapped and intensified NIWs that had a frequency ω within the anomalously low-frequency band (i.e., ω min < ω < f eff), which only exists if the baroclinicity is nonzero. We observed two periods when ω min < f on the shelf, but the relative vorticity was positive (i.e., f eff > f) for one of these periods. The process of NIW propagation remained consistent with the local ω min, and not f eff, emphasizing the importance of baroclinicity on the NIW dynamics. We conclude that windy shelves with baroclinic background currents are likely to have energetic NIWs, but the current and seabed will adjust the spatial distribution and energetics of these NIWs.

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