Interpretation of equatorial current meter data as internal waves

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Blumenthal, Martin Benno
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Internal waves
Ocean waves
Garrett and Munk use linear dynamics to synthesize frequency-wavenumber energy spectra for internal waves (GM72, GM75, GM79). The GM internal wave models are horizontally isotropic, vertically symmetric, purely propagating, and universal in both time and space. This set of properties effectively eliminates all the interesting physics, since such models do not allow localized sources and sinks of energy. Thus an important step in understanding internal wave dynamics is to make measurements of deviations from the simple GM models. This thesis continues the search for deviations from the GM models. It has three advantages over earlier work: extensive data from an equatorial region, long time series (2 years), and relatively sophisticated linear internal wave models. Since the GM models are based on mid-latitude data, having data from an equatorial region which has a strong mean current system offers an opportunity to examine a region with a distinctly different basic state. The longer time series mean there is a larger statistical ensemble of realizations, making it possible to detect smaller internal wave signals. The internal wave models include several important extensions to the GM models: horizontal anisotropy and vertical asymmetry, resolution between standing modes and propagating waves, general vertical structure, and kinematic effects of mean shear flow. Also investigated are the effects of scattering on internal waves, effects that are especially strong on the equator because the buoyancy frequency variability is a factor of ten higher than at mid-latitudes. In the high frequency internal wave field considered (frequencies between .125 cph and .458 cph), several features are found that are not included in the GM models. Both the kinematic effects of a mean shear flow and the phase-locking that distinguishes standing modes from propagating waves are observed. There is a seasonal dependence in energy level of roughly 10% of the mean level. At times the wave field is zonally and vertically asymmetric, with resulting energy fluxes that are a small (4% to 10%) fraction of the maximum energy flux the internal wave field could support. The fluxes are, however, as big as many of the postulated sources of energy for the internal wave field.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution January 1987
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Blumenthal, M. B. (1987). Interpretation of equatorial current meter data as internal waves [Doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]. Woods Hole Open Access Server.
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