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Free Content Internal tides on the East China Sea Continental Slope

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Strong semidiurnal internal tides are observed on the continental slope of the East China Sea (ECS) using an array of subsurface moorings and EM-APEX floats. A Princeton Ocean Model (POM) is used to simulate the effects of stratification profiles on the generation and propagation of M2 internal tides; model simulations are compared with observations. On the ECS continental slope northeast of Taiwan, the semidiurnal barotropic tidal current flows nearly perpendicular to the shelf break and continental slope, favoring the generation of internal tides. Both the critical slope analysis and numerical model results suggest multiple generation sites on the continental slope, shelf break and around North MienHua Canyon. Unique high-wavenumber semidiurnal internal tides with a dominant vertical scale of ∼100 m are found on the continental slope. The high-wavenumber semidiurnal internal tides appear in a form of spatially coherent shear layers across the ECS slope. They propagate vertically both upward and downward. Patches of strong energy and shear at a typical vertical scale of O(50 m) are present at the intersections of the upward and downward propagating high-wavenumber internal tides. The strong shear of high-wavenumber semidiurnal tides could play an important role in triggering shear instability on the ECS slope. The semidiurnal internal tidal energy flux, primarily in low wavenumbers, on the ECS slope, exhibits strong temporal and spatial variations. The observed depth integrated energy flux is 3.0–10.7 kW m–1, mostly seaward from the continental shelf/slope. The POM model predicts similar seaward energy fluxes at a slightly weaker magnitude, 1.0–7.2 kW m–1. The difference may be due to the absence of mesoscale processes in the model, e.g., the Kuroshio Current and eddies, the assumed horizontally uniform stratification profiles, insufficient model resolution for the abrupt canyon bathymetry, and the lack of the other major semidiurnal tidal constituent, S2, in the model. On the ECS slope, the total energy in the internal wave continuum, between 0.3 cph (beyond semidiurnal tidal harmonics) and the buoyancy frequency, is 6-13 times that of the Garrett–Munk model, presumably as a result of the energy cascade from strong inertial waves and internal tides in the region.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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