Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
31 Mar 1999
31 Mar 1999

Internal gravity waves: Analysis using the periodic, inverse scattering transform

W. B. Zimmerman and G. W. Haarlemmer

Abstract. The discrete periodic inverse scattering transform (DPIST) has been shown to provide the salient features of nonlinear Fourier analysis for surface shallow water waves whose dynamics are governed by the Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation - (1) linear superposition of components with power spectra that are invariants of the motion of nonlinear dispersive waves and (2) nonlinear filtering. As it is well known that internal gravity waves also approximately satisfy the KdV equation in shallow stratified layers, this paper investigates the degree to which DPIST provides a useful nonlinear spectral analysis of internal waves by application to simulations and wave tank experiments of internal wave propagation from localized dense disturbances. It is found that DPIST analysis is sensitive to the quantity λ = (r/6s) * (ε/μ2), where the first factor depends parametrically on the Richardson number and the background shear and density profiles and the second factor is the Ursell number-the ratio of the dimensionless wave amplitude to the dimensionless squared wavenumber. Each separate wave component of the decomposition of the initial disturbance can have a different value, and thus there is usually just one component which is an invariant of the motion found by DPIST analysis. However, as the physical applications, e.g. accidental toxic gas releases, are usually concerned with the propagation of the longest wavenumber disturbance, this is still useful information. In cases where only long, monochromatic solitary waves are triggered or selected by the waveguide, the entire DPIST spectral analysis is useful.