AbstractUnderstanding and predicting how internal tides distort and lose coherence as they propagate through the ocean has been identified as a key issue for interpreting data from the upcoming wide-swath altimeter mission Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT). This study addresses the issue through the analysis of numerical experiments where a low-mode internal tide propagates through a quasigeostrophic turbulent jet. Equations of motion linearized around the slower turbulent field are projected onto vertical modes and assumed to describe the dynamics of the low-mode internal tide propagation. Diagnostics of the terms responsible for the interaction between the wave and the slow circulation are computed from the numerical outputs. The large-scale change of stratification, on top of eddies and jet meanders, contributes significantly to these interaction terms, which is shown to be consistent with an independent scaling analysis. The sensitivity of interaction terms to a degradation of the slow field spatial and temporal resolution indicates that present-day observing systems (Argo network, altimetry) may lack the spatial resolution necessary to correctly predict internal tide evolution. The upcoming SWOT satellite mission may improve upon this situation. The number of vertical modes required to properly estimate interaction terms is discussed. These results advocate development of a simplified model based on solving a modest number of the linearized equations subject to a prescribed mesoscale field and internal tide sources.
Journal of Physical Oceanography – American Meteorological Society
Published: Mar 21, 2017
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