High-resolution observations of subsurface fronts and alongshore bottom temperature variability over the inner shelf
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Circulation patterns over the inner continental shelf can be spatially complex and highly variable in time. However, few studies have examined alongshore variability over short scales of kilometers or less. To observe inner‐shelf bottom temperatures with high (5‐m) horizontal resolution, a fiber‐optic distributed temperature sensing system was deployed along a 5‐km‐long portion of the 15‐m isobath within a larger‐scale mooring array south of Martha's Vineyard, MA. Over the span of 4 months, variability at a range of scales was observed along the cable over time periods of less than a day. Notably, rapid cooling events propagated down the cable away from a tidal mixing front, showing that propagating fronts on the inner shelf can be generated locally near shallow bathymetric features in addition to remote offshore locations. Propagation velocities of observed fronts were influenced by background tidal currents in the alongshore component and show a weak correlation with theoretical gravity current speeds in the cross‐shore component. These events provide a source of cold, dense water into the inner shelf. However, differences in the magnitude and frequency of cooling events at sites separated by a few kilometers in the alongshore direction suggest that the characteristics of small‐scale variability can vary dramatically and can result in differential fluxes of water, heat, and other tracers. Thus, under stratified conditions, prolonged subsurface observations with high spatial and temporal resolution are needed to characterize the implications of three‐dimensional circulation patterns on exchange, especially in regions where the coastline and isobaths are not straight.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2019. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans 53(3), (2019): 1639-1649, doi:10.1029/2018JC014454.
Suggested CitationConnolly, T. P., & Kirincich, A. R. (2019). High-resolution observations of subsurface fronts and alongshore bottom temperature variability over the inner shelf. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 53(3), 1639-1649.
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