Observations of Shoaling Density Current Regime Changes in Internal Wave Interactions

Type Article
Date 2020-06
Language English
Author(s) Solodoch Aviv1, Molemaker Jeroen M.1, Srinivasan Kaushik1, Berta Maristella2, Marie Louis3, Jagannathan Arjun1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Calif Los Angeles, Dept Atmospher & Ocean Sci, Los Angeles, CA 90095 USA.
2 : CNR, Ist Sci Marine, La Spezia, Italy.
3 : Inst Francais Rech Exploitat Mer, Plouzane, France.
Source Journal Of Physical Oceanography (0022-3670) (Amer Meteorological Soc), 2020-06 , Vol. 50 , N. 6 , P. 1733-1751
DOI 10.1175/JPO-D-19-0176.1

We present in situ and remote observations of a Mississippi plume front in the Louisiana Bight. The plume propagated freely across the bight, rather than as a coastal current. The observed cross-front circulation pattern is typical of density currents, as are the small width (approximate to 100 m) of the plume front and the presence of surface frontal convergence. Acomparison of observations with stratified density current theory is conducted. Additionally, subcritical to supercritical transitions of frontal propagation speed relative to internal gravity wave (IGW) speed are demonstrated to occur. That is in part due to IGW speed reduction with decrease in seabed depth during the frontal propagation toward the shore. Theoretical steady-state density current propagation speed is in good agreement with the observations in the critical and supercritical regimes but not in the inherently unsteady subcritical regime. The latter may be due to interaction of IGW with the front, an effect previously demonstrated only in laboratory and numerical experiments. In the critical regime, finiteamplitude IGWs form and remain locked to the front. Acritical to supercritical transition eventually occurs as the ambient conditions change during frontal propagation, after which IGWs are not supported at the front. The subcritical (critical) to critical (supercritical) transition is related to Froude number ahead (under) the front, consistently with theory. Finally, we find that the front-locked IGW (critical) regime is itself dependent on significant nonlinear speed enhancement of the IGW by their growth to finite amplitude at the front.

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