Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Generation of internal solitary waves in a pycnocline by an internal wave beam: a numerical study


a1 Laboratoire des Écoulements Géophysiques et Industriels, UJF/CNRS/G-INP, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble CEDEX 9, France

a2 Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Texel, The Netherlands


Oceanic observations from western Europe and the south-western Indian ocean have provided evidence of the generation of internal solitary waves due to an internal tidal beam impinging on the pycnocline from below – a process referred to as ‘local generation’ (as opposed to the more direct generation over topography). Here we present the first direct numerical simulations of such a generation process with a fully nonlinear non-hydrostatic model for an idealised configuration. We show that, depending on the parameters, different modes can be excited and we provide examples of internal solitary waves as first, second and third modes, trapped in the pycnocline. A criterion for the selection of a particular mode is put forward, in terms of phase speeds. In addition, another simpler geometrical criterion is presented to explain the selection of modes in a more intuitive way. Finally, results are discussed and compared with the configuration of the Bay of Biscay.

(Received January 13 2010)

(Revised January 20 2011)

(Accepted February 02 2011)

(Online publication April 01 2011)

Key words:

  • internal waves;
  • ocean processes;
  • solitary waves


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