Internal gravity waves generated by tidal flow over topography

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Dettner, Amadeus Konstantin

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The majority of internal gravity wave energy in the ocean is produced by tidal flow over bottom topography. Regions of critical topography, where the topographic slope is equal to the slope of the internal gravity waves, is often believed to contribute most significantly to the radiated internal gravity wave power. Here, we present 2D computational studies of internal gravity wave generation by tidal flow over several types of topographic ridges. We vary the criticality parameter [epsilon], which is the ratio of the topographic slope to the wave beam slope, by independently changing the tidal frequency, stratification and topographic slope, which allows to study subcritical ([epsilon] < 1), critical ([epsilon] = 1), and supercritical ([epsilon] > 1) topography. This parameter variation allows us to explore a large range of criticality parameter, namely 0.1< [epsilon] < 10, as well as beam slope S, 0.05< S < 10. As in prior work [Zhang et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2008)], we observe resonant boundary currents for [epsilon] = 1. However, we find that the normalized radiated power monotonically increases with internal wave beam slope. We show that an appropriate normalization condition leads to a universal scaling of the radiated power that is proportional to the inverse of the beam slope 1/S and the tidal intensity I[subscript tide], except near [epsilon] = 1 where the behavior undergoes a transition. We characterize this transition and the overall scaling with the criticality parameter f([epsilon]), which is weak compared to the scalings mentioned before and only varies by a factor of two over the entire range of criticality parameter that we explored. Our results therefore suggest that estimates of the ocean energy budget must account for the strong scaling with the local beam slope, which dominates the conversion of tidal motions to internal wave energy. Thus we argue that detailed characterization of the stratification in the ocean is more important for global ocean models than high-resolution bathymetry to determine the criticality parameter.




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