Dynamics of the long-period tides

Carl Wunsch, Dale B. Haidvogel, Mohamed Iskandarani, R. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The long-period tides are a tool for understanding oceanic motions at low frequencies and large scales. Here we review observations and theory of the fortnightly, monthly and pole tide constituents. Observations have been plagued by low signal-to-noise ratios and theory by the complex lateral geometry and great sensitivity to bottom slopes. A new spectral element model is used to compute the oceanic response to tidal forcing at 2 week and monthly periods. The general response is that of a heavily damped (Q ≃ 5) system with both the energy input from the moon and the dissipation strongly localized in space. The high dissipation result is probably generally applicable to all low frequency barotropic oceanic motions. Over much of the ocean, the response has both the character of a large-scale and a superposed Rossby wave like character, thus vindicating two apparently conflicting earlier interpretations. To the extent that free waves are excited they are consistent with their being dominated by Rossby and topographic Rossby wave components, although gravity modes are also necessarily excited to some degree. In general, a modal representation is not very helpful. The most active region are the Southern Ocean and the western and northern North Atlantic. These results are stable to changes in geometry, topography, and tide period. On a global average basis, the dynamical response of Mm is closer to equilibrium than is Mt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-108
Number of pages28
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


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