Seasonal variations in the circulation over the Middle Atlantic Bight continental shelf
Lentz, Steven J.
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Fits of an annual harmonic to depth-average along-shelf current time series longer than 200 days from 27 sites over the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) continental shelf have amplitudes of a few centimeters per second. These seasonal variations are forced by seasonal variations in the wind stress and the cross-shelf density gradient. The component of wind stress that drives the along-shelf flow over most of the MAB mid- and outer shelf is oriented northeast–southwest, perpendicular to the major axis of the seasonal variation in the wind stress. Consequently, there is not a significant seasonal variation in the wind-driven along-shelf flow, except over the southern MAB shelf and the inner shelf of New England where the wind stress components forcing the along-shelf flow are north–south and east–west, respectively. The seasonal variation in the residual along-shelf flow, after removing the wind-driven component, has an amplitude of a few centimeters per second with maximum southwestward flow in spring onshore of the 60-m isobath and autumn offshore of the 60-m isobath. The spring maximum onshore of the 60-m isobath is consistent with the maximum river discharges in spring enhancing cross-shelf salinity gradients. The autumn maximum offshore of the 60-m isobath and a steady phase increase with water depth offshore of Cape Cod are both consistent with the seasonal variation in the cross-shelf temperature gradient associated with the development and destruction of a near-bottom pool of cold water over the mid and outer shelf (“cold pool”) due to seasonal variations in surface heat flux and wind stress.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2008. 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 38 (2008): 1486–1500, doi:10.1175/2007JPO3767.1.
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