Estuarine exchange flow quantified with isohaline coordinates : contrasting long and short estuaries

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Chen, Shih-Nan
Geyer, W. Rockwell
Ralston, David K.
Lerczak, James A.
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Coastal flows
Isohaline coordinate analysis is used to compare the exchange flow in two contrasting estuaries, the long (with respect to tidal excursion) Hudson River and the short Merrimack River, using validated numerical models. The isohaline analysis averages fluxes in salinity space rather than in physical space, yielding the isohaline exchange flow that incorporates both subtidal and tidal fluxes and precisely satisfies the Knudsen relation. The isohaline analysis can be consistently applied to both subtidally and tidally dominated estuaries. In the Hudson, the isohaline exchange flow is similar to results from the Eulerian analysis, and the conventional estuarine theory can be used to quantify the salt transport based on scaling with the baroclinic pressure gradient. In the Merrimack, the isohaline exchange flow is much larger than the Eulerian quantity, indicating the dominance of tidal salt flux. The exchange flow does not scale with the baroclinic pressure gradient but rather with tidal volume flux. This tidal exchange is driven by tidal pumping due to the jet–sink flow at the mouth constriction, leading to a linear dependence of exchange flow on tidal volume flux. Finally, a tidal conversion parameter Qin/Qprism, measuring the fraction of tidal inflow Qprism that is converted into net exchange Qin, is proposed to characterize the exchange processes among different systems. It is found that the length scale ratio between tidal excursion and salinity intrusion provides a characteristic to distinguish estuarine regimes.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2012. 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 42 (2012): 748–763, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-11-086.1.
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Journal of Physical Oceanography 42 (2012): 748–763
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