David A. Jay

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Physics



Physical Description

1 online resource (xxxi, 422 pages)


Tides -- Mathematical models, Tides -- Pacific Ocean -- Behavior, Tidal currents -- Pacific Ocean -- Regional disparities, Sea level -- Climatic factors, Tides -- Pacific Ocean -- Effect of global warming on, Southern oscillation, El Niño Current




Ocean tides worldwide have exhibited secular changes in the past century, simultaneous with a global secular rise in mean sea level (MSL). The combination of these two factors contributes to higher water levels, and may increase threats to coastal regions and populations over the next century. Equally as important as these long-term changes are the short-term fluctuations in sea levels and tidal properties. These fluctuations may interact to yield locally extreme water level events, especially when combined with storm surge. This study, presented in three parts, examines the relationships between tidal anomalies and MSL anomalies on yearly and monthly timescales, with a goal of diagnosing dynamical factors that may influence the long-term evolution of tides in the Pacific Ocean. Correlations between yearly averaged properties are denoted tidal anomaly trends (TATs), and will be used to explore interannual behavior. Correlations of monthly averaged properties are denoted seasonal tidal anomaly trends (STATs), and are used to examine seasonal behavior. Four tidal constituents are analyzed: the two largest semidiurnal (twice daily) constituents, M2 and S2, and the two largest diurnal (once daily) constituents, K1 and O1.

Part I surveys TATs and STATs at 153 Pacific Ocean tide gauges, and discusses regional patterns within the entire Pacific Ocean. TATs with statistically significant relations between MSL and amplitudes (A-TATs) are seen at 89% of all gauges; 92 gauges for M2, 66 for S2, 82 for K1, and 59 for O1. TATs with statistically significant relations between tidal phase (the relative timing of high water of the tide) and MSL (P-TATs) are observed at 55 gauges for M2, 47 for S2, 42 for K1, and 61 for O1. Significant seasonal variations (STATs) are observed at about a third of all gauges, with the largest concentration in Southeast Asia. The effect of combined A-TATs was also considered. At selected stations, observed tidal sensitivity with MSL was extrapolated forward in time to the predicted sea level in 2100. Results suggest that stations with large positive combined A-TATs produce total water levels that are greater than those predicted by an increase in MSL alone, increasing the chances of high-water events. Conversely, negative correlation between sea level and tidal properties may mitigate somewhat against sea level rise; changes in total water levels in 2100 at stations with a negative combined A-TAT are less than that predicted by MSL rise alone. Climate change scenarios that take into account greater increases in MSL due to increased Antarctic ice melt show larger changes in total water levels over the same time period.

Part II examines the mechanisms behind the yearly (TAT) variability in the Western Tropical Pacific Ocean. Significant amplitude TATs are found at more than half of 26 gauges for each of the two strongest tidal constituents, K1 (diurnal) and M2 (semidiurnal). For the lesser constituents analyzed (O1 and S2), significant trends are observed at ten gauges. Frictional mechanisms related to the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are found to be important in influencing tides in the Western Pacific, as well as resonant triad interactions, a nonlinear coupling that exchanges energy between the M2, K1, and O1 tides. Both of these factors contribute to the observed tidal variability in the Solomon Sea region.

Part III analyzes the seasonal behavior of tides (STATs) at twenty tide gauges in the Southeast Asian waters, which exhibit variation by 10-30% of mean tidal amplitudes. A barotropic ocean tide model that considers the seasonal effects of MSL, stratification, and geostrophic and Ekman velocity is used to explain the observed seasonal variability in tides due to variations in monsoon-influenced climate forcing, with successful results at about half of all gauges. The observed changes in tides are best explained by the influence of non-tidal velocities (geostrophic and Ekman), though the effect of changing stratification is also an important secondary causative mechanism.

From the results of these surveys and investigations, it is concluded that short-term fluctuations in MSL and tidal properties at multiple time scales may be as important in determining the state of future water levels as the long-term trends. Global explanations for the observed tidal behavior have not been found in this study; however, significant regional explanations are found at the yearly time scale in the Solomon Sea, and at the seasonal time scale in Southeast Asia. It is likely that tidal sensitivity to annual and seasonal variations in MSL at other locations also are driven by locally specific processes, rather than factors with basin-wide coherence.


A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Physics

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