Internal Tides and Waves

Internal waves contribute to mixing and the cross-shelf exchange of material, energy, and heat on the inner-shelf.  In coastal environments, internal waves can be highly-nonlinear and evolve quickly as they move into shallowing water depths.  While we know that nonlinear internal waves modify inner-shelf stratification, mixing and transport, their relative importance and spatiotemporal variability are still open research topics.   

The Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment
Figure of the Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment site from Lerczak et al. 2019. (borrowed with permission)  

The 2017 Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment (Lerczak et al. 2019) provides a unique and highly-resolved dataset to study the propagation and evolution of internal waves from the mid (~100m depth) to inner (~10m) shelf of central California.  We are using data from both moorings and shipboard surveys, complemented by remote sensing data from collaborators, to understand the dynamics modulating how nonlinear internal waves evolve across shore.  Our published work focused on the influences of spatiotemporal variability of the waveguide, including both along-shore and across-shore changes in stratification, waves speed, and kinetic energy. Ongoing work, in collaboration with Amy Waterhouse (at Scripps Institution of Oceanography), focuses on elucidating how low-frequency currents and stratification on the inner self both impact and are impacted by internal waves through the generation of turbulent dissipation.

For more info:



McSweeney, J.M., J.A. Lerczak, J.A. Barth, J. Becherer, J.A. Colosi, J.A. MacKinnon, J.H. MacMahan, J.N. Moum, S.D. Pierce, and A.F. Waterhouse, Observations of Shoaling Nonlinear Internal Bores Across the Central California Inner Shelf. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 50, 111-132, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-19-0125.1

McSweeney, J. M.,  J .A. Lerczak, J. A. Barth, J. A. Becherer, J. A. MacKinnon, A. F. Waterhouse, J. A. Colosi, J. H. MacMahan, F. Feddersen, J. Calantoni,  A. Simpson, S. Celona, M. C. Haller, and E. Terrill. 2020. Along-shore Variability of Shoaling Internal Bores on the Inner Shelf. Journal of Physical Oceanography. J. Phys. Oceanogr.50, 2965–2981,doi:10.1175/JPO-D-20-0090.1

The NY Bight

We are in the process of planning a mooring deployment on the inner shelf south of Long Island, NY to collect new in situ observations of internal waves. Stay tuned for more info!

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