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Near-Inertial Wave Propagation In Geostrophic Shear

Eric KunzeApplied Physics Laboratory and School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105

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Abstract

An approximate dispersion relation for near-inertial internal waves propagating in geostrophic shear is formulated that includes straining by the mean flow shear. Near-inertial and geostrophic motions have similar horizontal scales in the ocean. This implies that interaction terms involving mean flow shear of the form (v·Δ)V as well as the mean flow itself [(V·Δ)v] must be retained in the equations of motion. The vorticity ζ shifts the lower bound of the internal waveband from the planetary value of the Coriolis frequency f to an effective Coriolis frequency feπ = f + ζ/2. A ray tracing approach is adopted to examine the propagation behavior of near-inertial waves in a model geostrophic jet. Trapping and amplification occur in regions of negative vorticity where near-inertial waves' intrinsic frequency &omega0 can be less than the effective Coriolis frequency of the surrounding ocean. Intense downward-propagating near-inertial waves have been observed at the base of upper ocean negative vorticity in the North Pacific Subtropical Front, warm-core rings, a Gulf Stream cold-core ring and an anticyclonic eddy in the Sargasso Sea. Waves that are not trapped are focussed into tight beams as they leave the jet.

Abstract

An approximate dispersion relation for near-inertial internal waves propagating in geostrophic shear is formulated that includes straining by the mean flow shear. Near-inertial and geostrophic motions have similar horizontal scales in the ocean. This implies that interaction terms involving mean flow shear of the form (v·Δ)V as well as the mean flow itself [(V·Δ)v] must be retained in the equations of motion. The vorticity ζ shifts the lower bound of the internal waveband from the planetary value of the Coriolis frequency f to an effective Coriolis frequency feπ = f + ζ/2. A ray tracing approach is adopted to examine the propagation behavior of near-inertial waves in a model geostrophic jet. Trapping and amplification occur in regions of negative vorticity where near-inertial waves' intrinsic frequency &omega0 can be less than the effective Coriolis frequency of the surrounding ocean. Intense downward-propagating near-inertial waves have been observed at the base of upper ocean negative vorticity in the North Pacific Subtropical Front, warm-core rings, a Gulf Stream cold-core ring and an anticyclonic eddy in the Sargasso Sea. Waves that are not trapped are focussed into tight beams as they leave the jet.

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