Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
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© 2022. The Authors.
River plumes transport and mix land-based tracers into the ocean. In tidally pulsed river plumes, wind effects have long been considered negligible in modulating interfacial mixing in the energetic nearfield region. This research tests the influence of variable, realistic winds on mixing in the interior plume. A numerical model of the Merrimack River plume-shelf system is utilized, with an application of the salinity variance approach employed to identify spatial and temporal variation in advection, straining, and dissipation (mixing) of vertical salinity variance (stratification). Results indicate that moderate wind stresses (∼0.5 Pa) with a northward component countering the downcoast rotation of the plume are most effective at decreasing stratification in the domain relative to other wind conditions. Northward winds advect plume and ambient shelf stratification offshore, allowing shelf water salinity to increase in the nearshore, which strengthens the density gradient at the plume base. Straining in the plume increases with winds enhancing offshore-directed surface velocities, leading to increased shear at the plume base. Increased straining and larger density gradients at the plume base enhance variance dissipation in the near- and midfield plume, and dissipation remains enhanced if the shelf is clear of residual stratification. The smaller spatial and temporal scales of the Merrimack plume allow the mechanisms to occur at tidal time scales in direct response to instantaneous winds. This is the first study to show tidal time scale wind-induced straining and advection as controlling factors on near- and midfield mixing rates in river plumes under realistic winds.
Spicer, Preston; Cole, Kelly L.; Huguenard, Kimberly; MacDonald, Daniel G.; and Whitney, Michael M., "Wind Effects on Near- and Midfield Mixing in Tidally Pulsed River Plumes" (2022). Civil Engineering Faculty Scholarship. 2.
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