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On long nonlinear internal waves over slope-shelf topography

  • Karl R. Helfrich (a1) (a2) and W. K. Melville (a1)

Abstract

An experimental and theoretical study of the propagation and stability of long nonlinear internal waves over slope–shelf topography is presented. A generalized Korteweg–de Vries (KdV) equation, including the effects of nonlinearity, dispersion, dissipation and varying bottom topography, is formulated and solved numerically for single and rank-ordered pairs of solitary waves incident on the slope. The results of corresponding laboratory experiments in a salt-stratified system are reported. Very good agreement between theory and experiment is obtained for a range of stratifications, topography and incident-wave amplitudes. Significant disagreement is found in some cases if the effects of dissipation and higher-order (cubic) nonlinearity are not included in the theoretical model. Weak shearing and strong breaking (overturning) instabilities are observed and found to depend strongly on the incident-wave amplitude and the stratification on the shelf. In some cases the instability of the lowest-mode wave leads to the generation of a second-mode solitary wave. The application of these findings to the prediction and interpretation of field data is discussed.

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On long nonlinear internal waves over slope-shelf topography

  • Karl R. Helfrich (a1) (a2) and W. K. Melville (a1)

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