(American Meteorological Society, 2017-07-03)
Xie, Xiaohui; Li, Ming; Scully, Malcolm E.; Boicourt, William C.
Internal solitary waves are commonly observed in the coastal ocean where they are known to contribute to mass transport and turbulent mixing. While these waves are often generated by cross-isobath barotropic tidal currents, novel observations are presented suggesting that internal solitary waves result from along-isobath tidal flows over channel-shoal bathymetry. Mooring and ship-based velocity, temperature, and salinity data were collected over a cross-channel section in a stratified estuary. The data show that Ekman forcing on along-channel tidal currents drives lateral circulation, which interacts with the stratified water over the deep channel to generate a supercritical mode-2 internal lee wave. This lee wave propagates onto the shallow shoal and evolves into a group of internal solitary waves of elevation due to nonlinear steepening. These observations highlight the potential importance of three-dimensionality on the conversion of tidal flow to internal waves in the rotating ocean.