Observations and modeling of a tidal inlet dye tracer plume

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Date
2016-10-24
Authors
Feddersen, Falk
Olabarrieta, Maitane
Guza, R. T.
Winters, Dylan
Raubenheimer, Britt
Elgar, Steve
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DOI
10.1002/2016JC011922
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Keywords
Tidal inlet
Tracer transport
Ebb-tidal plume
Abstract
A 9 km long tracer plume was created by continuously releasing Rhodamine WT dye for 2.2 h during ebb tide within the southern edge of the main tidal channel at New River Inlet, NC on 7 May 2012, with highly obliquely incident waves and alongshore winds. Over 6 h from release, COAWST (coupled ROMS and SWAN, including wave, wind, and tidal forcing) modeled dye compares well with (aerial hyperspectral and in situ) observed dye concentration. Dye first was transported rapidly seaward along the main channel and partially advected across the ebb-tidal shoal until reaching the offshore edge of the shoal. Dye did not eject offshore in an ebb-tidal jet because the obliquely incident breaking waves retarded the inlet-mouth ebb-tidal flow and forced currents along the ebb shoal. The dye plume largely was confined to <4 m depth. Dye was then transported downcoast in the narrow (few 100 m wide) surfzone of the beach bordering the inlet at 0.3 inline image driven by wave breaking. Over 6 h, the dye plume is not significantly affected by buoyancy. Observed dye mass balances close indicating all released dye is accounted for. Modeled and observed dye behaviors are qualitatively similar. The model simulates well the evolution of the dye center of mass, lateral spreading, surface area, and maximum concentration, as well as regional (“inlet” and “ocean”) dye mass balances. This indicates that the model represents well the dynamics of the ebb-tidal dye plume. Details of the dye transport pathways across the ebb shoal are modeled poorly perhaps owing to low-resolution and smoothed model bathymetry. Wave forcing effects have a large impact on the dye transport.
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© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 121 (2016): 7819–7844, doi:10.1002/2016JC011922.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 121 (2016): 7819–7844
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