- Plumes (Fluid dynamics),
- Columbia River (Or. and Wash.) -- Hydrodynamics,
- Internal waves
Large-amplitude nonlinear internal waves (NLIWs) are frequently observed propagating away from Columbia River tidal plume fronts. They are generated because of the deceleration of the frontal bulge. During the River Influences on Shelf Ecosystems project cruises, the velocity, density structure and acoustic backscatter of the plume fronts and frontal NLIWs were observed using a towed vehicle, vessel-mounted instrumentation, and a vessel X band radar. These observations indicate that in the presence of strong ambient velocity shear, the NLIWs with maximum amplitudes occur well below the density interface and at a depth deeper than in the absence of shear. This deepening of the NLIW shear is associated with intensified vertical mixing below the interface. This is consistent with a dynamic analysis of NLIWs under the influence of sheared ambient flow, obtained from a high-order KdV model. There are two mechanisms responsible for the vertical turbulent mixing intensification. The nonlinear interaction between ambient shear and the NLIWs increases total velocity shear and causes the gradient Richardson number Rig to decrease below a critical value in certain depth ranges. Also, because of the presence of the ambient shear, the maximum NLIW velocity shear occurs at a depth below the density interface where there is less stratification.