Stratified flow over topography: Upstream influence and generation of nonlinear internal waves

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Results are presented from a recent experiment in Knight Inlet, British Columbia, focusing on the generation and propagation of nonlinear internal waves near the sill during ebb tide. High-quality echo-sounder and velocity measurements were obtained in a novel fashion, using instrumentation carried aboard a small inflatable boat. Complementing these data, a set of photographic images of the surface signature of the internal waves was acquired from both a fixed mountainside location and a helicopter. These photographs situate the observations within the larger-scale structure of the internal response found in the inlet. The observations reveal the development of strongly nonlinear internal waves on a bore occurring upstream of the sill crest. As the tidal flow relaxes, these waves propagate upstream, at first slowly, and later rapidly against the gradually waning flow. A simulation of wave generation with a fully nonlinear numerical model is discussed. The simulation shows that upstream influence, associated with the rapidly increasing tidal forcing, leads to formation of an undular bore upstream of the sill crest. As the tidal flow relaxes, the bore subsequently evolves into a group of upstream-propagating solitary-like internal waves. Taken together, the observations and numerical simulation describe a process for the generation of nonlinear internal waves involving upstream influence, which likely has application in other environments for stratified flow over topography.

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Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences