Internal tide energy flux over a ridge measured by a co-located ocean glider and moored Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler

Rob A. Hall, Barbara Berx, Gillian M. Damerell

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Internal tide energy flux is an important diagnostic for the study of energy pathways in the ocean, from large-scale input by the surface tide, to small-scale dissipation by turbulent mixing. Accurate calculation of energy flux requires repeated full-depth measurements of both potential density (ρ) and horizontal current velocity (u) over at least a tidal cycle and over several weeks to resolve the internal spring-neap cycle. Typically, these observations are made using full-depth oceanographic moorings that are vulnerable to being ‘fished-out’ by commercial trawlers when deployed on continental shelves and slopes. Here we test an alternative approach to minimise these risks, with u measured by a low-frequency ADCP moored near the seabed and ρ measured by an autonomous ocean glider holding station by the ADCP. The method is used to measure the semidiurnal internal tide radiating from the Wyville Thompson Ridge in the North Atlantic. The observed energy flux (4.2±0.2 kW m-1) compares favourably with historic observations and a previous numerical model study.

Error in the energy flux calculation due to imperfect co-location of the glider and ADCP is estimated by sub-sampling potential density in an idealised internal tide field along pseudorandomly distributed glider paths. The error is considered acceptable (<10%) if all the glider data is contained within a ‘watch circle’ with a diameter smaller than 1/8 the mode-1 horizontal wavelength of the internal tide. Energy flux is biased low because the glider samples density with a broad range of phase shifts, resulting in underestimation of vertical isopycnal displacement and available potential energy. The negative bias increases with increasing watch circle diameter. If watch circle diameter is larger than 1/8 the mode-1 horizontal wavelength, the negative bias is more than 3% and all realisations within the 95% confidence interval are underestimates. Over the Wyville Thompson Ridge, where the semidiurnal mode-1 horizontal wavelength is ≈100 km and all the glider dives are within a 5 km diameter watch circle, the observed energy flux is estimated to have a negative bias of only 0.4% and an error of less than 3% at the 95% confidence limit. With typical glider performance, we expect energy flux error due to imperfect co-location to be <10% in most mid-latitude shelf slope regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1439-1453
Number of pages5
JournalOcean Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019

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