Investigation of baroclinic tides in the northern South China Sea
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Baroclinic tides result from the interaction of barotropic tides with topography in stratified oceans. They play an important role in driving deep ocean mixing. In this research, investigations of the dynamics of baroclinic tides and internal solitary waves (ISWs) in the northern South China Sea (SCS) are conducted, mainly by means of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (MITgcm).
Firstly, simulations of internal wave generation at the Luzon Strait (LS) are carried out. By conducting three-dimensional (3D), high-resolution experiments, it was found that the generated wave field features a multi-modal structure: large, pronounced ISWs of first mode (amplitude ~120 m) and second mode (amplitude ~120 m) were reproduced. The two north-south aligned ridges in the LS contribute together to the generation of the second mode ISWs, whereas the easternmost ridge of the two is responsible for the first mode ISWs. It was found that multiple generation mechanisms of internal waves could occur in this region, and overall it belongs to a mixed lee wave regime.
A specific type of short internal waves arose during the 3D simulation. These ride on a second mode ISW with similar phase speed, trailing a first mode ISW. The short waves possess wavelengths of ~1.5 km and amplitudes of ~20 m, and only show up in the upper layer up to a depth of ~500 m. Scrutiny of the generation process showed that these short waves appear in two distinct regions and are produced due to two mechanisms, namely, the disintegration of an inclined baroclinic bore near the LS, and the overtaking of a second mode ISW in the deep water by a faster first mode ISW. Robust evidence has been sought from satellite imagery and by solving the theoretical Taylor-Goldstein Equation to verify their existence.
The effects of superposition of multiple tidal harmonics (diurnal and semidiurnal) on the resultant ISW generation were investigated. It was first found that, by analyzing historical observational data, the occurrence of ISWs in the far-field always follow strong semidiurnal barotropic tidal peaks in the LS, regardless of whether it is the maximum for the diurnal or total tidal strength. However, modelling results of MITgcm and a linear internal tide generation model demonstrate that the diurnal tidal harmonics modulate the arrival time and amplitude of the propagating ISWs. Specifically, it leads to the emergence of the so-called A and B type ISWs and an alternation and transition between the two.
Secondly, the shoaling process of ISWs in the northern SCS slope-shelf area is investigated. A series of two-dimensional (2D) experiments are set up to study the shoaling of a large-amplitude second mode concave ISW over a linear slope that resembles the SCS slope. Modelling results show that a strong transformation of the wave profile starts to take place when the wave is approaching the shelf break. A convex type wave is born at the trailing edge of the incident wave and gradually disintegrates into a group of ISWs due to the steepening of the rear wave profile. The frontal face of the wave gets flatter when travelling on the slope, but forms a steep structure right above the shelf break. However, this steep structure shows no tendency to evolve into an ISW: instead, it gets increasingly flat again while evolving on the shelf. The trailing convex wave packet travels faster and merges with the frontal concave wave. Finally, a wave packet with rank-ordered convex ISWs moves forward steadily on the shelf. Energy transfer to the ambient modes is evident, as both first mode and higher modes are clearly seen during and after the shoaling process.
First mode ISW evolution is studied too by performing 3D, high-resolution experiments over the wide northern SCS slope and shelf area. It was found that the wave profiles change drastically near the shelf break and the Dongsha Atoll. In agreement with satellite imagery, the wavefront of the leading ISW becomes more spatially oblique with respect to its original orientation as it progresses westward due to the inclination of the slope in the topography. Wave disintegration is prominent in the shallow water zone, and wave polarity reverses near the turning point (at the 130 m isobath), which is consistent with the predictions of weakly nonlinear theory. A series of 2D experiments were set up to inspect the effects of rotation on the shoaling ISW. The results indicate that under the rotation, upon reaching the continental shelf, one shoaling ISW could disintegrate into one ISW packet and one secondary solibore that contains a number of rank-ordered waves with much shorter wavelength than an ISW. The secondary solibore is very pronounced in the northern portion of the northern SCS slope and shelf, but could hardly be discerned in the southern portion, which is consistent with the outcome of 3D simulations.
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