Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Solitary internal waves in deep water

Russ E.  Davis a1p1 and Andreas  Acrivos a1
a1 Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University

Article author query
davis re   [Google Scholar] 
acrivos a   [Google Scholar] 


A new type of solitary wave motion in incompressible fluids of non-uniform density has been investigated experimentally and theoretically. If a fluid is stratified in such a manner that there are two layers of different density joined by a thin region in which the density varies continuously, this type of wave propagates along the density gradient region without change of shape. In contrast to previously known solitary waves, these disturbances can exist even if the fluid depth is infinite. The waves are described by an approximate solution of the inviscid equations of motion. The analysis, which is based on the assumption that the wavelength of the disturbance is large compared with the thickness, L, of the region in which the density is not constant, indicates that the propagation velocity, U, is characterized by the dimensionless group (gL/U2) In (ρ12), where g is the gravitational acceleration and ρ is the density. The value of this group, which is dependent on the wave amplitude and the form of the density gradient, is of the order one. Experimentally determined propagation velocities and wave shapes serve to verify the theoretical model.

(Published Online March 28 2006)
(Received December 7 1966)

p1 Present address: Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, La Jolla.