19 October 2016 Internal solitons in the Andaman Sea: a new look at an old problem
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Abstract
When Osborne and Burch [1] reported their observations of large-amplitude, long internal waves in the Andaman Sea that conform with theoretical results from the physics of nonlinear waves, a new research field on ocean waves was immediately set out. They described their findings in the frame of shallow-water solitary waves governed by the K-dV equation, which occur because of a balance between nonlinear cohesive and linear dispersive forces in a fluid. It was concluded that the internal waves in the Andaman Sea were solitons and that they evolved either from an initial waveform (over approximately constant water depth) or by a fission process (over variable water depth). Since then, there has been a great deal of progress in our understanding of Internal Solitary Waves (ISWs), or solitons in the ocean, particularly making use of satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems. While two layer models such as those used by Osborne and Burch[1] allow for propagation of fundamental mode (i.e. mode-1) ISWs, continuous stratification permits the existence of higher mode internal waves. It happens that the Andaman Sea stratification is characterized by two (or more) maxima in the vertical profile of the buoyancy frequency N(z), i.e. a double pycnocline, hence prone to the existence of mode-2 (or higher) internal waves. In this paper we report solitary-like internal waves with mode-2 vertical structure co-existing with the large well know mode-1 solitons. The mode-2 waves are identified in satellite SAR images (e.g. TerraSAR-X, Envisat, etc.) because of their distinct surface signature. While the SAR image intensity of mode-1 waves is characterized by bright, enhanced backscatter preceding dark reduced backscatter along the nonlinear internal wave propagation direction (in agreement with Alpers, 1985[2]), for mode-2 solitary wave structures, the polarity of the SAR signature is reversed and thus a dark reduced backscatter crest precedes a bright, enhanced backscatter feature in the propagation direction of the wave. The polarity of these mode-2 signatures changes because the location of the surface convergent and divergent zones is reversed in relation to mode-1 ISWs. Mode-2 ISWs are identified in many locations of the Andaman Sea, but here we focus on ISWs along the Ten Degree Channel which occur along-side large mode-1 ISWs. We discuss possible generation locations and mechanisms for both mode-1 and mode-2 ISWs along this stretch of the Andaman Sea, recurring to modeling of the ray pathways of internal tidal energy propagation, and the P. G. Baines[3] barotropic body force, which drives the generation of internal tides near the shallow water areas between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. We consider three possible explanations for mode-2 solitary wave generation in the Andaman Sea: (1) impingement of an internal tidal beam on the pycnocline, itself emanating from critical bathymetry; (2) nonlinear disintegration of internal tide modes; (3) the lee wave forming mechanism to the west of a ridge during westward tidal flow out of the Andaman Sea (as originally proposed by Osborne and Burch for mode-1 ISWs). SAR evidence is of critical importance for examining those generation mechanisms.
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J. C. B. da Silva, J. M. Magalhaes, "Internal solitons in the Andaman Sea: a new look at an old problem", Proc. SPIE 9999, Remote Sensing of the Ocean, Sea Ice, Coastal Waters, and Large Water Regions 2016, 999907 (19 October 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2241198; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2241198
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