Surface manifestation of internal tides generated near Hawaii



Analysis of Topex/Poseidon satellite altimetry reveals short-wavelength fluctuations in the ocean surface tide that are attributable to internal tides. A significant fraction of the semidiurnal internal tide generated at the Hawaiian Ridge is evidently phase-locked to the astronomical potential and can modulate the amplitude of the surface tide by ∼5 cm. The internal tide is thus easily mapped along satellite groundtracks, and it is found to be spatially coherent over great distances, with waves propagating well over 1000 km from the Hawaiian Ridge before decaying below noise level. Both first and second baroclinic modes are observed in both the M2 (lunar) and S2 (solar) tides. The high space-time coherence is in sharp contrast to what is often inferred from current-meter observations, but it confirms recent speculations from an acoustic experiment north of Hawaii.