A computational case study of coupled-mode 400-Hz acoustic propagation over the distance 27 km on the continental shelf is presented. The mode coupling reported here is caused by lateral gradients of sound-speed within packets of nonlinear internal waves, often referred to as solitary wave packets. In a waveguide having unequal attenuation of modes, directional exchange of energy between low- and high-loss modes, via mode coupling, can become time dependent by the movement of waves and can cause temporally variable loss of acoustic energy into the bottom. Here, that bottom interaction effect is shown to be sensitive to stratification conditions, which determine waveguide properties and, in turn, determine modal attenuation coefficients. In particular, time-dependent energy loss due to the presence of moving internal wave packets is compared for waveguides with and without a frontal feature similar to that found at the shelfbreak south of New England. The mean and variability of acoustic energy level 27 km distant from a source are shown to be altered in a first order way by the presence of the frontal feature. The effects of the front are also shown to be functions of source depth.