Articles | Volume 21, issue 4
Research article
21 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 21 Aug 2014

Simulations of nonlinear harmonic generation by an internal wave beam incident on a pycnocline

S. Wunsch, H. Ku, I. Delwiche, and R. Awadallah

Abstract. Internal wave beams generated by oceanic tidal flows propagate upward and interact with the increasing stratification found at the pycnocline. The nonlinear generation of harmonic modes by internal wave beams incident on a pycnocline has recently been demonstrated by laboratory experiments and numerical simulations. In these previous studies, the harmonic modes were trapped within the pycnocline because their frequencies exceeded that of the stratified fluid below. Here, two-dimensional numerical simulations are used to explore the effect of incidence angle on harmonic generation at a thin pycnocline. At incidence angles less than 30 degrees (typical of oceanic beams), the lowest harmonic mode freely radiates in the form of an internal wave beam rather than being trapped within the pycnocline. The results indicate that nonlinear refraction is the primary mechanism for harmonic generation at incidence angles exceeding 30 degrees, but that interaction of the incident and reflected beams is more important at smaller incidence angles. The simulations are compared to weakly nonlinear theory based on refraction at the pycnocline. The results yield good agreement for trapped harmonics, but weakly nonlinear theory substantially underpredicts the amplitude of the radiated harmonics.