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Surface Currents and Winds at the Delaware Bay Mouth

Source: Continental Shelf Resource

Knowledge of the circulation of estuaries and adjacent shelf waters has relied on hydrographic measurements, moorings, and local wind observations usually removed from the region of interest. Although these observations are certainly sufficient to identify major characteristics, they lack both spatial resolution and temporal coverage. High-resolution synoptic observations are required to identify important coastal processes at smaller scales. Long observation periods are needed to properly sample low-frequency processes that may also be important. The introduction of high-frequency (HF) radar measurements and regional wind models for coastal studies is changing this situation. Here we analyze synoptic, high-resolution surface winds and currents in the Delaware Bay mouth over an 8-month period (October 2007 through May 2008). The surface currents were measured by two HF radars while the surface winds were extracted from a data-assimilating regional wind model. To illustrate the utility of these monitoring tools we focus on two 45-day periods which previously were shown to present contrasting pictures of the circulation. One, the low-outflow period is from 1 October through 14 November 2007; the other is the high-outflow period from 3 March through 16 April 2008. The large-scale characteristics noted by previous workers are clearly corroborated. Specifically the M2 tide dominates the surface currents, and the Delaware Bay outflow plume is clearly evident in the low frequency currents. Several new aspects of the surface circulation were also identified. These include a map of the spatial variability of the M2 tide (validating an earlier model study), persistent low-frequency cross-mouth flow, and a rapid response of the surface currents to a changing wind field. However, strong wind episodes did not persist long enough to set up a sustained Ekman response. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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