Articles | Volume 17, issue 5
07 Oct 2010
 | 07 Oct 2010

Multimodal structure of baroclinic tides in the South China Sea

V. Vlasenko, N. Stashchuk, C. Guo, and X. Chen

Abstract. The modelling of baroclinic tides generated in the northern South China Sea is studied using a fully-nonlinear non-hydrostatic numerical model. The focus of the modelling efforts was on the vertical structure of internal waves in the vicinity of the Luzon Strait.

The barotropic tidal flow interacting with a two-ridge bottom topography in the area of the Luzon Strait produces a complex baroclinic tidal signal. A multimodal baroclinic bore with counter-phase displacement of isopycnals generated over the ridges and propagating westward disintegrates into a series of large-amplitude solitary internal waves. The leading first-mode solitary wave of depression is followed by a second mode solitary wave coupled with a packet of short-scale internal waves riding it. Scrutiny of the characteristics of the both wave forms, i.e. the carrier second-mode solitary wave and the packet of short waves, revealed that the short-scale waves are basically concentrated in the upper 500 m layer and attenuate exponentially below it. The short waves exist only thanks to a specific structure of horizontal velocity produced by the second-mode solitary wave. Having equal phase speeds and propagating together for a long distance, this coupled system produces quite a remarkable signal at the free surface, which can be detected by means of remote sensing technique.

It was found in a series of sensitivity experiments that the eastern ridge is responsible for the generation of progressive first-mode tidal waves disintegrated into packets of first-mode ISWs. The western ridge produces quite a strong higher-mode signal. The waves generated over the eastern and western ridges interfere in the near-field, and their nonlinear superposition enhances the multimodal signal in the whole domain.