Shear and turbulence production across subtidal channels
Ralston, David K.
Stacey, Mark T.
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In intertidal regions with subtidal channels, effects of bathymetry on overlying flow vary greatly with tidal stage. Around low water when mudflats and marsh are exposed, flow is constrained to channels, but when water depths are greater, tidal forcing may not necessarily be aligned with meandering channel axes. Flow across the channel can generate strong shear and turbulence at the elevation of the channel banks and can significantly increase turbulent energy in the middle of the water column. Field observations in a mudflat channel of San Francisco Bay indicate that cross-channel shear regularly occurs there early in ebb tides. With increased freshwater flow, baroclinic forcing can enhance shear by decoupling flow between dense water flooding in the channel and fresher water ebbing above the channel banks. A water column numerical model with κ-ε turbulence closure is modified to represent the cross-channel shear production. Numerical results with uniform density indicate that turbulence production increases with the angle between the barotropic tidal forcing and the channel axis. When a longitudinal salinity gradient is imposed, cross-channel shear production contributes to breakdown of periodic stratification. Turbulence produced at the channel banks locally exceeds dissipation, and the excess energy is either lost to buoyancy or diffuses vertically to lower energy regions near the surface and near the bed. The balance among shear production, buoyancy production, and diffusion of turbulence depends on the flow angle and the strength of the longitudinal salinity gradient.
Author Posting. © Sears Foundation for Marine Research, 2006. This article is posted here by permission of Sears Foundation for Marine Research for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Marine Research 64 (2006): 147-171, doi:10.1357/002224006776412359.