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Michigan Tech Research Institute


Internal waves in the ocean play an important role in turbulence generation due to wave-breaking processes and mixing of the ocean. Airborne radar images of internal waves and ocean eddies north of Svalbard suggested that ocean eddies could generate internal waves. Here, we test this hypothesis using data from a dedicated internal wave experiment in the Greenland Sea. Internal waves with dominant frequencies of 1–3 cycles per hour and amplitudes up to 15 m were observed using three thermistor chains suspended from a drifting array conveniently placed on the ice in a triangle with sides of several km. Analysis shows that internal waves propagated westwards with a speed of about 0.2 m/s and wavelength of 0.4–1.0 km, away from an anticyclonic ocean eddy located just east of the array. This was consistent with the remote-sensing observations of internal waves whose surface signature was imaged by an airborne radar in the western part of this eddy, and with theories that eddies and vortexes can directly generate internal waves. This case study supports our hypothesis that ocean eddies can be the direct sources of internal waves reported here for the first time and not only enhancing the local internal wave field by draining energy from the eddies, as studied previously. The present challenge is to explore the role of eddies as a new source in generating internal waves in the global ocean.

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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License ( licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Tellus A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography


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