Statistical and dynamical analyses of generation mechanisms of solitary internal waves in the northern South China Sea

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Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans
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Mar 30
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[1] This study analyzes the effects of thermocline shoaling on the ocean internal wave (IW) generation in the north South China Sea (NSCS). Seven years of satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from 1995 to 2001 are used for the statistical analysis of IW occurrence, and field measurements of sea surface wind, sea state, and vertical temperature profiles are used for analyzing IW generation and SAR imaging conditions. Latitudinal distribution of IW packets shows that 22% of IW packets distributed in the east of 118 degrees E obviously originate from the Luzon Strait, and 78% of IW packets west of 118 degrees E may propagate from the east or evolve into the solitons originating from the east boundary owing to the fission effect of shoaling thermocline. The yearly distribution of IW occurrence frequencies reveals an interannual variability, implying that there are long-term and large-scale processes modifying the SAR-observed IW occurrence. The monthly SAR-observed IW occurrence frequencies show that the high frequencies are distributed from April to July and reach a peak in June with a maximum frequency of 20%. The low occurrence frequencies are distributed in winter from December to February of next year with a minimum frequency of 1.5% in February. This study proposes that the IW generation needs the necessary and sufficient conditions: initial disturbance formation and wave amplitude growth. Owing to the dissipation effect on the initial disturbance, only fully grown waves have a chance to radiate out of the source region. A physical model and PKdV equation are adopted for analyzing the sufficient conditions for solitary IW amplitude growth. The results indicate that the thermocline shoaling provides the forcing to soliton amplitude growth, so that the soliton amplitude growth ratio (SAGR) serves as a decisive factor for the IW occurrence frequency. Theoretical analysis predicts a linear relation between the two. Application of theoretical models to field measurements in the Luzon Strait gives a correlation coefficient as high as 0.845 with a confidence level of 99% for months from March to November. The linear regression gives a correlation coefficient (R-2) of 0.6519 and a SAGR threshold ( minimum) value of 0.90 for IW occurrence. According to the theoretical solutions, the eastward propagating disturbances have no chance to grow up, so that they hardly appear on the east side of the submarine ridges in the eastern Luzon Strait.


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Doi 10.1029/2006jc003551