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Scales and structure of frontal adjustment and freshwater export in a region of freshwater influence

Hopkins, Joanne; Polton, Jeffrey A.. 2012 Scales and structure of frontal adjustment and freshwater export in a region of freshwater influence. Ocean Dynamics, 62 (1). 45-62. 10.1007/s10236-011-0475-7

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Abstract/Summary

Sea surface temperature satellite imagery and a regional hydrodynamic model are used to investigate the variability and structure of the Liverpool Bay thermohaline front. A statistically based water mass classification technique is used to locate the front in both data sets. The front moves between 5 and 35 km in response to spring-neap changes in tidal mixing, an adjustment that is much greater than at other shelf-sea fronts. Superimposed on top of this fortnightly cycle are semi-diurnal movements of 5-10 km driven by flood and ebb tidal currents. Seasonal variability in the freshwater discharge and the density difference between buoyant inflow and more saline Irish Sea water give rise to two different dynamical regimes. During winter, when cold inflow reduces the buoyancy of the plume, a bottom-advected front develops. Over the summer, when warm river water provides additional buoyancy, a surface-advected plume detaches from the bottom and propagates much larger distances across the bay. Decoupled from near-bed processes, the position of the surface front is more variable. Fortnightly stratification and re-mixing over large areas of Liverpool Bay is a potentially important mechanism by which freshwater, and its nutrient and pollutant loads, are exported from the coastal plume system. Based on length scales estimated from model and satellite data, the erosion of post-neap stratification is estimated to be responsible for exporting approximately 19% of the fresh estuarine discharge annually entering the system. Although the baroclinic residual circulation makes a more significant contribution to freshwater fluxes, the episodic nature of the spring-neap cycle may have important implications for biogeochemical cycles within the bay

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1007/s10236-011-0475-7
Programmes: Oceans 2025 > Shelf and coastal processes
Additional Keywords: LIVERPOOL BAY; IRISH SEA; TIDAL MIXING; SPRING TIDES; NEAP TIDES; COASTAL SHELF SEAS; STRATIFICATION; THERMOHALINE FRONT; FRESHWATER EXPORT
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 25 Jan 2012 11:54
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/16399

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