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January 13, 2016

Speaker: Kevin Lamb, University of Waterloo
Title: Internal Waves in the Ocean
Abstract: Internal gravity waves are a ubiquitous phenomena in density stratified fluids where gravitational restoring forces act on vertically displaced fluids. They exist throughout the ocean, atmosphere and stratified lakes. In the ocean a special form of these waves, called internal solitary waves, are commonly observed on the continental shelf.

Internal waves are an important oceanic phenomenon for a number of reasons. Nonlinear interactions among internal waves are an important mechanism for cascading energy from large scales where it is injected to small scales where it is dissipated and mixing occurs. Because of this they play a role in driving large-scale ocean circulation with implications for climate. Internal solitary waves can be highly energetic, with amplitudes close to 200 metres in extreme cases. They can re-suspend sediments, transport fluid, cause mixing in the interior of the water column via flow instabilities and affect sound propagation. In some locations large currents associated with these waves are a concern for the offshore oil industry.

In this talk I will give an overview of internal waves in the ocean, focusing primarily on the life cycle of internal solitary waves using observations, theory and modelling.