Postprint version. Published in Continental Shelf Research, Volume 117, April 1, 2016, pages 100-117.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2016.02.007.
We collected high-resolution observations of nonlinear internal waves (NLIWs) at a persistent upwelling front in the shallow coastal environment (~20 m) of northern Monterey Bay, CA. The coastal upwelling front forms between recently upwelled waters and warmer stratified waters that are trapped in the bay (upwelling shadow). The front propagates up and down the coast in the along-shore direction as a buoyant plume front due to modulation by strong diurnal wind forcing. The evolution of the coastal upwelling front, and the subsequent modulation of background environmental conditions, is examined using both individual events and composite day averages. We demonstrate that regional-scale upwelling and local diurnal wind forcing are key components controlling local stratification and the formation of internal wave guides that allow for high-frequency internal wave activity. Finally, we discuss the ability of theoretical models to describe particularly large-amplitude internal waves that exist in the presence of a strong background shear and test a fully nonlinear model (i.e., the Dubreil–Jacotin–Long equation).