Internal waves are generated in stratified fluids, like the ocean, where density increases with depth. Tides are one of the major generation mechanisms of internal waves. As the tides move water back and forth over underwater topography, internal waves can be generated. The shape of the topography plays a major part in the properties of the generated internal wave and the type of wave and energy is known for multiple symmetric topographies, such as Gaussian or sinusoidal. In order to further understand the effects topographic shape plays, the effect of asymmetry on internal waves is investigated. First, two experimental methods are compared to evaluate which will capture the relevant information for comparing waves generated from oscillating asymmetric topographies. Two experimental methods are often used in internal wave research, Synthetic Schlieren (SS) and Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV). Both SS and PIV experimental methods are used to analyze a set of experiments in a variety of density profiles and with a variety of topographies. The results from these experiments are then compared both qualitatively and quantitatively to decide which method to use for further research. In the setup, the larger field of view of SS results in superior resolution in wavenumber analysis, when compared to PIV. In addition, SS is 25% faster to setup and significantly cheaper. These are the deciding factors leading to the selection of SS as the preferred experimental method for further tests regarding tidally generated internal waves from asymmetric topographies. Previous experimental and theoretical research on tidally generated internal waves has most often used symmetric topographies. However, due to the complex nature of real ocean topography, the effect of asymmetry can not be overlooked. A few studies have shown that asymmetry can have a significant effect on internal wave generation, but topographic asymmetry has not been studied in a systematic manner up to this point. This work presents a comparison of tidally generated internal waves from nine different asymmetric topographies, consisting of a steeper Gaussian curve on one side, and a wider Gaussian curve on the other. The wider curve has varying amplitude from 1 to 0.6 of the steeper curve's amplitude, and two oscillation frequencies are explored. First, kinetic energy density in tidally generated internal waves is compared qualitatively and quantitatively, in both physical and Fourier space. When compared to similar symmetric topographies, the asymmetric topographies varied distinctly in the amount of internal wave kinetic energy generated. In general, internal wave kinetic energy generated from asymmetric topographies is higher for waves generated at a lower frequency than at a higher frequency. Also, kinetic energy is higher in internal waves on the relatively steeper side of the topography. There is very little kinetic energy in the higher wavenumbers, with most of the internal waves being generated at the lower wavenumbers. The amplitude does not make an appreciable difference in the wavenumber at which the internal waves are generated. Thus, the differences quantified here are due solely to changing slope, showing a significant impact of a relatively slight asymmetry.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Stratified flow, internal waves, asymmetric topography, oceanic bathymetry, synthetic schlieren, particle image velocimetry



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Engineering Commons