Dissipative losses in nonlinear internal waves propagating across the continental shelf

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A single nonlinear internal wave tracked more than 100 wavelengths across Oregon's continental shelf over a 12-h period exhibited nearly constant wave speed, c = 0.75 m s-1, and amplitude, a = 15 m. The wavelength L gradually decreased from 220 m in 170-m water depth to 60 m in 70-m water depth. As the water shallowed beyond 50 m, the wave became unrecognizable as such. The total energy decreased from 1.1 to 0.5 MJ m-1. The rate at which wave energy was lost, -dE/dt = 14 [7, 22] W m-1, was approximately equal to the energy lost to turbulence dissipation, ρε = 10 [7, 14] W m-1, as inferred from turbulence measurements in the wave cores plus estimates in the wave-induced bottom boundary layer. The approximate balance, dE /dt = - ρε, differs from the solibore model of Henyey and Hoering in which the potential energy across the wave balances ρε. However, other evidence suggests that the wave evolved from a solibore-like state to a dissipative solitary wavelike state over the observed propagation path. © 2007 American Meteorological Society.

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Journal of Physical Oceanography