A Global Map of Coherent M2 Internal Tide Surface Elevations

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Richard D Ray, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States and Edward D Zaron, Portland State University, Portland, OR, United States
Satellite altimetry reveals small surface waves, with elevations of order 1 cm or smaller, associated with internal tides in the deep ocean. The global satellite data provide an unprecedented picture of such waves, potentially yielding much information about the ocean interior. Accurate knowledge of these waves is also needed for de-tiding altimetry in certain sensitive applications, including the future SWOT mission. Several approaches have been initiated recently to map these tiny waves, usually with some reliance on hydrographic information (e.g., recent work by Dushaw et al., 2011). Here we explore the feasibility of a purely empirical approach which avoids assumptions about stratification or modal wavelengths. A global elevation map is constructed based on tidal analysis of Topex/Poseidon, Jason, ERS-2, Envisat and GFO data. Small (order 5 mm) residuals, with wavelengths much longer than the baroclinic tide, appear unless now-standard along-track high-pass filters are applied, but filtering is shown to cause serious loss of information for east-west propagating waves (given typical track patterns). The technique is probably infeasible for S2 because of Envisat's and ERS's sun-synchronous orbits. Independent data from Cryosat-2 is used to validate the results. Applying our internal-tide 'correction' to Cryosat-2 data confirms a small reduction in variance in expected locations of significant internal tides.