Generation of internal waves by a supercritical stratified plume
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The generation of internal waves by a propagating river plume is studied in the framework of a fully nonlinear nonhydrostatic numerical model. The vertical fluid stratification, parameters of tide, river discharge, and the bottom topography were taken close to those observed near the Columbia River mouth. It was found that in the beginning of the ebb tidal phase the river water intruding into the sea behaves as a surface jet stream. It collides with the stagnant shelf waters and sinks down in the area of the outer plume boundary, forming a head of the gravity current. In supercritical conditions which are normally realized at the first stage of the ebb tidal phase, internal waves are arrested in the head of the gravity current because their phase speed is smaller than the velocity of the plume. They are released and radiate from the plume when the speed of the decelerating front becomes smaller than the internal wave phase speed. This mechanism of the wave generation is sensitive to the stratification of the ambient shelf waters. It was found that dramatic decay of the buoyancy frequency profile from the surface to the bottom provides the most favorable conditions for the efficient disintegration of the head of the gravity current into a packet of internal waves and their fast separation from the plume. In the case when the fluid stratification on the shelf is close to monotonous, the disintegration of the head of the gravity current into a packet of solitary internal waves is not expected. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
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