The dynamics and kinematics of the coastal boundary layer off Long Island
Pettigrew, Neal R.
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LocationNorth Atlantic Ocean
Data from the COBOLT experiment, which investigated the first 12 km off Long Island's south shore, are analyzed and discussed. Moored current meter records indicate that the nearshore flow field is strongly polarized in the alongshore direction and its fluctuations are well correlated with local meteorological forcing. Complex empirical orthogonal function analysis suggests that subtidal velocity fluctuations are barotropic in nature and are strongly influenced by bottom friction. Wind-related inertial currents were observed within the coastal boundary layer (CBL) under favorable meteorological and hydrographical conditions. The magnitude of these oscillations increases with distance from shore, and they display a very clear 180° phase difference between surface and bottom layers. Nearshore inertial oscillations of both velocity and salinity records appear to lead those further seaward, suggesting local generation and subsequent radiation away from the coast. The response of the coastal zone to impulsive wind forcing is discussed using simple slab and two-layer models, and the behavior of the nearshore current field examined. The major features of the observed inertial motions are in good qualitative agreement with model predictions. It is found that, in a homogeneous domain, the coastal boundary condition effectively prohibits inertial currents over the entire coastal zone. In the presence of stratification the offshore extent of this prohibition is greatly reduced and significant inertial currents may occur within one or two internal deformation radii of the coast. The "coastal effect", in the form of surface and interfacial waves which propagate away from the coast, modifies the "pure" inertial response as it would exist far from shore. The kinematics of this process is such that a 180° phase difference between currents in the two layers is characteristic of the entire coastal zone even before the internal wave has had time to traverse the CBL. It is also suggested that, for positions seaward of several internal deformation radii, interference between the surface and internal components of the coastal response will cause maximum inertial amplitudes to occur for t > x/c2, where c2 is the phase speed of the internal disturbance. The hydrographic structure of the CBL is observed to undergo frequent homogenization. These events are related to both advective and mixing processes. Horizontal and vertical exchange coefficients are estimated from the data, and subsequently used in a diffusive model which accurately reproduces the observed mean density distribution in the nearshore zone. Dynamic balance calculations are performed which indicate that the subtidal cross-shore momentum balance is very nearly geostrophic. The calculations also suggest that the longshore balance may be reasonably represented by a steady, linear equation of motion which includes surface and bottom stresses. Evidence is presented which shows that variations in the longshore wind-stress component are primarily responsible for the energetic fluctuations in the sea surface slope along Long Island. Depth-averaged velocities characteristically show net offshore transport in the study area, and often display dramatic longshore current reversals with distance from shore. These observations are interpreted in terms of a steady circulation model which includes realistic nearshore topography. Model results suggest that longshore current reversals within the CBL may be limited to the eastern end of Long Island, and that this unusual flow pattern is a consequence of flow convergence related to the presence of Long Island Sound.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution December 1980
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