On the detectability of internal tides in Drake Passage

Heywood, Karen J.; Collins, Julie L.; Hughes, Christopher W. ORCID:; Vassie, Ian. 2007 On the detectability of internal tides in Drake Passage. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 54 (11). 1972-1984.

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The Southern Ocean hosts significant topographic mixing that might be associated with internal tides. Tidal signals are evident in bottom temperature at 1000 m in Drake Passage, suggesting that internal tides with an amplitude of between ∼20 and 200 m may be present. Various necessary conditions for internal tide generation show that the steep topography in and around Drake Passage can initiate internal tides, and recent global tide models have suggested this region to generate very large interface displacements. Here, we present an attempt to detect internal tides in Drake Passage. During the last 10 years, combinations of bottom pressure recorders and inverted echo sounders have been deployed in the region. The bottom pressure recorders measure predominantly the barotropic tide; the inverted echo sounders measure travel time from sea bed to sea surface and therefore are influenced both by sea level (barotropic tide) and internal sound speed (internal tide). By subtracting one from the other, the internal tide should be detectable. Although the technique works successfully around Hawaii, it does not prove the existence of large internal tides in Drake Passage. The detectability of the internal tidal signal in Drake Passage is investigated using a six-layer one-dimensional model to simulate the bottom pressure and travel time signals of a semi-diurnal tide. The temperature and salinity stratification in Drake Passage is sufficiently weak that large vertical excursions are necessary to produce a signal in travel time detectable above the noise in Drake Passage. An internal tide of at least 70 or 20 m in northern and southern Drake Passage, respectively, would be detected. The fact that these are, perhaps surprisingly, not detected by the combination of bottom pressure and travel time, constrains the internal tides in Drake Passage to be ∼20 m in southern Drake Passage, and between 20 and 70 m in northern Drake Passage. The model also predicts that satellite altimetry would not be able to detect internal tides in Drake Passage, but would in the Brazil Basin and Hawaii regions.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: POL Programmes
ISSN: 09670637
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 22 Aug 2012 12:52 +0 (UTC)

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