Internal tide nonstationarity and wave-mesoscale interactions in the tasman sea

Anna C. Savage, Amy F. Waterhouse, Samuel M. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Internal tides, generated by barotropic tides flowing over rough topography, are a primary source of energy into the internal wave field. As internal tides propagate away from generation sites, they can dephase from the equilibrium tide, becoming nonstationary. Here, we examine how low-frequency quasigeostrophic background flows scatter and dephase internal tides in the Tasman Sea. We demonstrate that a semi-idealized internal tide model [the Coupled-Mode Shallow Water model (CSW)] must include two background flow effects to replicate the in situ internal tide energy fluxes observed during the Tasmanian Internal Tide Beam Experiment (TBeam). The first effect is internal tide advection by the background flow, which strongly depends on the spatial scale of the background flow and is largest at the smaller scales resolved in the background flow model (i.e., 50-400 km). Internal tide advection is also shown to scatter internal tides from vertical mode-1 to mode-2 at a rate of about 1mWm-2. The second effect is internal tide refraction due to background flow perturbations to the mode-1 eigenspeed. This effect primarily dephases the internal tide, attenuating stationary energy at a rate of up to 5mWm-2. Detailed analysis of the stationary internal tide momentum and energy balances indicate that background flow effects on the stationary internal tide can be accurately parameterized using an eddy diffusivity derived from a 1D random walk model. In summary, the results identify an efficient way to model the stationary internal tide and quantify its loss of stationarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2931-2951
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. We thank Jen MacKinnon and Jonathan Nash for their support through TTIDE. Additionally, we thank Gunnar Voet and members of the SIO Multiscale Ocean Dynamics group for deploying the TBeam mooring. A. F. Waterhouse and A. C. Savage acknowledge funding from NSF-OCE1434722 and S. M. Kelly was supported by NSF-OCE1434352 and NASA-NNX16AH75G. We also acknowledge support for ship time aboard the R/V Falkor supported by the Schmidt Ocean Institute. We acknowledge the participating captains, technical support, and crew of the R/V Falkor and the R/V Revelle, without whom data collection would not be possible. We also thank Gregory Wagner for his thoughtful comments and review prior to submission and Ed Zaron for insights on parameterizing background flow effects. Finally, authors acknowledge the invaluable feedback from three anonymous reviewers. Mooring and CTD data from the R/V Falkor is hosted with the BCO-DMO repository and can be found at https:// The source code for CSW can be downloaded from smkelly/.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Meteorological Society.


  • Australia
  • Baroclinic flows
  • Eddies
  • Internal waves
  • Ocean
  • Shallow-water equations


Dive into the research topics of 'Internal tide nonstationarity and wave-mesoscale interactions in the tasman sea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this