Arthur Robert S.

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Robert S.
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Fate of internal waves on a shallow shelf

2020-04-21 , Davis, Kristen A. , Arthur, Robert S. , Reid, Emma C. , Rogers, Justin S. , Fringer, Oliver B. , DeCarlo, Thomas M. , Cohen, Anne L.

Internal waves strongly influence the physical and chemical environment of coastal ecosystems worldwide. We report novel observations from a distributed temperature sensing (DTS) system that tracked the transformation of internal waves from the shelf break to the surf zone over a narrow shelf slope region in the South China Sea. The spatially continuous view of temperature fields provides a perspective of physical processes commonly available only in laboratory settings or numerical models, including internal wave reflection off a natural slope, shoreward transport of dense fluid within trapped cores, and observations of internal rundown (near‐bed, offshore‐directed jets of water preceding a breaking internal wave). Analysis shows that the fate of internal waves on this shelf—whether transmitted into shallow waters or reflected back offshore—is mediated by local water column density structure and background currents set by the previous shoaling internal waves, highlighting the importance of wave‐wave interactions in nearshore internal wave dynamics.