Overtides and compound tides are generated by nonlinear mechanisms operative primarily in shallow waters. Their presence complicates tidal analysis owing to the multitude of new constituents and their possible frequency overlap with astronomical tides. The science of nonlinear tides was greatly advanced by the pioneering researches of Christian Le Provost who employed analytical theory, physical modeling, and numerical modeling in many extensive studies, especially of the tides of the English Channel. Le Provost's complementary work with satellite altimetry motivates our attempts to merge these two interests. After a brief review, we describe initial steps toward the assimilation of altimetry into models of nonlinear tides via generalized inverse methods. A series of barotropic inverse solutions is computed for the M-4 tide over the northwest European Shelf. Future applications of altimetry to regions with fewer in situ measurements will require improved understanding of error covariance models because these control the tradeoffs between fitting hydrodynamics and data, a delicate issue in coastal regions. While M-4 can now be robustly determined along the Topex/Poseidon satellite ground tracks, many other compound tides face serious aliasing problems.
Ocean Dynamics, 2006, Vol 56, Issue 5-6, p. 416-429