The influence of wind forcing on the Chesapeake Bay buoyant coastal current
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Observations of the buoyant coastal current that flows southward from Chesapeake Bay are used to describe how the thickness, width, and propagation speed vary in response to changes in the along-shelf wind stress. Three basic regimes were observed depending on the strength of the wind. For weak wind stresses (from −0.02 to 0.02 Pa), the buoyant coastal current was relatively thin, the front slope was not steep, and the width was variable (1–20 km). For moderate downwelling (southward) wind stresses (0.02–0.07 Pa), wind-driven cross-shelf advection steepened the front, causing the plume to narrow and thicken. For stronger downwelling wind stresses (greater than 0.07 Pa), vertical mixing dominated, bulk Richardson numbers were approximately 0.25, isopycnals were nearly vertical, and the plume front widened but the plume width did not change. Plume thickness and width were normalized by the theoretical plume scales in the absence of wind forcing. Normalized plume thickness increased linearly from 1 to 2 as downwelling wind stresses increased from 0 to 0.2 Pa. Normalized plume widths were approximately 1 for downwelling wind stresses from 0.02 to 0.2 Pa. The observed along-shelf propagation speed of the plume was roughly equal to the sum of the theoretical propagation speed and the wind-driven along-shelf flow.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2006. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Physical Oceanography 36 (2006): 1305-1316, doi:10.1175/JPO2909.1.