This visualization of internal solitary waves was developed by Chengzhu Xu and Marek Stastna (Univ. Of Waterloo). These waves are commonly observed in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, e.g., large-amplitude solitary-like waves of elevation propagating along the ocean bottom on the Oregon’s continental shelf. Such waves are expected to interact with the ocean bottom boundary layer during the shoaling process and provide potential for material mixing, leading to a significant environmental impact on coastal regions of the world’s oceans. This iso-density plot shows a high-resolution 3D direct numerical simulation of fully nonlinear internal solitary waves shoaling onto and over a small-amplitude shelf. A high-shear region is developing at the edge of the wave, yielding Kelvin-Helmholtz billows that grow as they propagate in the downstream direction.

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