Global rate and spectral characteristics of internal gravity wave generation by geostrophic flow over topography

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Abstract

[1] The rate of generation of internal gravity waves in the lee of small length scale topography by geostrophic flow in the World Ocean was estimated using linear theory with corrections for finite amplitude topography. Several global data sets were combined for the calculation including an ocean circulation model for the near-bottom geostrophic flow statistics, over 500 abyssal current meter records, historical climatological data for the buoyancy frequency, and two independent estimates of the small scale topographic statistical properties. The first topography estimate was based on an empirically-derived relationship between paleo-spreading rates and abyssal hill roughness, with corrections for sedimentation. The second estimate was based on small-scale (<100 km) roughness of satellite altimetry-derived gravity field, using upward continuation relationships to derive estimates of abyssal hill roughness at the seafloor at scales less than approximately 20 km. The lee wave generation rate was found to be between 0.34 to 0.49 TW. The Southern Hemisphere produced 92% of the lee wave energy, with the Southern Ocean dominating. Strength of the bottom flow was the most important factor in producing the global pattern of generation rate, except in the Indian Ocean where extremely rough topography produced strong lee wave generation despite only moderate bottom flows. The results imply about one half of the mechanical power input to the ocean general circulation from the extra-equatorial wind stress of the World Ocean results from abyssal lee wave generation. Topographic length scales between 176 m and 2.5 km (horizontal wavelengths between 1 and 16 km) accounted for 90% of the globally integrated generation.

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