Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
30 Apr 1999
30 Apr 1999

The evolution of an internal bore at the Malin shelf break

J. Small, T. C. Sawyer, and J. C. Scott

Abstract. Observations of internal waves were made at the Malin shelf edge during SESAME (Shelf Edge Studies Acoustic Measurement Experiment), a part of the NERC LOIS-SES experiment, in August-September 1996. These measurements provide a high resolution dataset demonstrating internal wave generation and propagation. This note presents observations of the evolution of an internal bore. The process is shown clearly in a sequence of thermistor chain tows across the shelf break covering a complete tidal cycle, as the double-sided bore transforms into a group of undulations and eventually into more distinct solitary waveforms. Current structures associated with the bore and waves were also observed by ship-mounted ADCP. Analysis of the waveforms in terms of the linear modes and empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) indicate the dominance of the first mode, which is typical of a shallow water seasonal thermocline environment. Determination of the phase speed of the waves from the consecutive ship surveys enabled the Doppler shift in the towed data to be removed, allowing analysis of the real length scales of the waves. The bore evolution has been modelled using a first order non-linear KdV model for the first mode, initialised with the waveform in the first survey. Comparison of the model and the observations show close agreement in the amplitudes, length scales, phase speeds and separations of the leading internal waves as they evolve. Finally, analysis of the observed internal wave shapes indicates that, within the uncertainties of measurement, the wave-lengths lie between those predicted by first and second order soliton theory.

Key words. Oceanography: general (continental shelf processes; ocean prediction). Oceanography: physical (internal and inertial waves)