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On long nonlinear internal waves over slope-shelf topography

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


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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