Here we show that there exist internal gravity waves that are inherently unstable, that is, they cannot exist in nature for a long time. The instability mechanism is a one-way (irreversible) harmonic-generation resonance that permanently transfers the energy of an internal wave to its higher harmonics. We show that, in fact, there are a countably infinite number of such unstable waves. For the harmonic-generation resonance to take place, the nonlinear terms in the free surface boundary condition play a pivotal role, and the instability does not occur in a linearly stratified fluid if a simplified boundary condition, such as a rigid lid or a linearized boundary condition, is employed. Harmonic-generation resonance presented here provides a mechanism for the transfer of internal wave energy to the higher-frequency part of the spectrum hence affecting, potentially significantly, the evolution of the internal waves spectrum.
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