Effect of the North Equatorial Counter Current on the generation and propagation of internal solitary waves off the Amazon shelf (SAR observations)
Abstract. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery from the Amazon shelf break region in the tropical west Atlantic reveals for the first time the two-dimensional horizontal structure of an intense Internal Solitary Wave (ISW) field, whose first surface manifestations are detected several hundred kilometres away from the nearest forcing bathymetry. Composite maps and an energy budget analysis (provided from the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model – HYCOM) help to identify two major ISW pathways emanating from the steep slopes of a small promontory (or headland) near 44° W and 0° N, which are seen to extend for over 500 km into the open ocean. Further analysis in the SAR reveals propagation speeds above 3 m s−1, which are amongst the fastest ever recorded. The main characteristics of the ISWs are further discussed based on a statistical analysis, and seasonal variability is found for one of the ISW sources. This seasonal variability is discussed in light of the North Equatorial Counter Current. The remote appearance of the ISW sea surface manifestations is explained by a late disintegration of the internal tide (IT), which is further investigated based on the SAR data and climatological monthly means (for stratification and currents). Acknowledging the possibility of a late disintegration of the IT may help explain the remote-sensing views of other ISWs in the world's oceans.