Department of Physics and Astronomy

University of Mississippi


Event Information:

  • Tue


    4:00 pmLewis Hall 101

    Maarten Buijsman
    Division of Marine Science
    University of Southern Mississippi

    The Equatorial Pacific "Graveyard" for Semidiurnal Internal Tides: Incoherence or Dissipation?

    The jets in the equatorial Pacific Ocean of a realistically-forced global circulation model with a horizontal resolution of 1/12.5 degree yield a strong loss of phase coherence in semidiurnal internal tides that propagate equatorward from the French Polynesian Islands and Hawaii. This loss of coherence is determined with a baroclinic energy analysis, in which the semidiurnal-band terms are separated into coherent, incoherent, and cross terms. For time scales longer than a year the coherent energy flux approaches zero values at the equator, while the total flux is 500 W/m. The time-variability of the incoherent energy flux is compared with phase speed variability computed with the Taylor-Goldstein equations. The variability of monthly-mean Taylor-Goldstein phase speeds agrees well with the phase speed variability inferred from steric sea surface height phases extracted with a plane-wave fit technique. On monthly time scales, the loss of phase coherence in the equatorward beams from the French Polynesian Islands is attributed to the time variability in the sheared background flow associated with the jets and tropical instability waves. On an annual time scale, the effect of stratification variability is of equal or greater importance than the background flow is to the loss of coherence. The model simulation suggests that low-frequency jets do not noticeably enhance the dissipation of the internal tide, but merely decohere and scatter it. Thus, the apparent demise of coherent internal tides seen in satellite altimetry maps of the equatorial Pacific may be due to incoherence rather than dissipation.