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Internal Waves Atlas

04 October 2006

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Internal waves, especially the strongly nonlinear ones having solitary-like characteristics, play several roles in conditioning the oceanic environment, in both the blue water and littoral zone. Internal waves are ubiquitous wherever strong tides and stratification occur near irregular topography. They can propagate over several hundred kilometers and transport both mass and momentum. The effects of internal waves include modification of the thermal and salinity structure, and enhancement of transport and mixing, which affects marine productivity, pollutant dispersal and ultimately the entire local marine environment.
Oceanic internal waves are among the most easily recognized oceanographic phenomena observed in remote sensing imagery. The characteristic signature of alternating bands of light and dark quasilinear strips, coherent over tens to hundreds of kilometers have been noted in photographs of the sea surface, in multispectral radiometer images, and in real and synthetic aperture radar images [Jackson, 2004]. Internal solitary waves occur globally wherever the combination of stratification, bathymetry, and current flow exist. These conditions commonly occur on the continental shelves, especially during the summer months, as well as in straits and on the sills between islands at the edges of the marginal seas.

The goals of this project are to determine the locations of high frequency nonlinear oceanic internal wave activity around the world and derive information on the wave’s characteristics, occurrence times, sources, geographic distribution, and wave field variation. The results will be used to improve and expand the Atlas of Internal Solitary-like Wave and Their Properties (see here) which currently contains information on occurrences from 54 regions around the world. The image available in the "News Attachment" link below, shows the location of internal wave imagery and data presented in the Second (and current) Edition of the Atlas of Oceanic Internal Solitary Waves. The vast majority are satellite images.

Visit as well the Synthetic Aperture Radar Marine User's Manual website.

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