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A Modeling Study of the Three-Dimensional Continental Shelf Circulation off Oregon. Part I: Model–Data Comparisons

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  • 1 College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
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Abstract

Sixty-day simulations of the subinertial continental shelf circulation off Oregon are performed for a hindcast study of summer 1999. Model results are compared with in situ currents, high-frequency radar–derived surface currents, and hydrographic measurements obtained from an array of moored instruments and field surveys. The correlations between observed and modeled alongshore currents and temperatures in water depths of 50 m are in excess of 0.8. A study designed to test the model's sensitivity to different initial stratification, surface forcing, domain size, and river forcing demonstrates that surface heating is important, and that the model results are sensitive to initial stratification. An objective criterion for assessing the skill of a model simulation relative to a control simulation is outlined, providing an objective means for identifying the best model simulation. The model–data comparisons demonstrate that temperature fluctuations off Newport are primarily in response to surface heating and that subsurface density fluctuations are controlled by the wind-forced circulation through salinity. Experiments with river forcing indicate that, in the vicinity of Newport, the Columbia River plume is typically greater than 15 km from the coast and is confined to the top few meters of the water column. Additionally, the model–data comparisons suggest that the strongest upwelling occurs to the north of Newport where the continental shelf is relatively narrow and uniform in the alongshore direction. Part II of this study investigates the modeled three-dimensional circulation and dynamical balances.

Current affiliation: School of Mathematics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Corresponding author address: Dr. Peter R. Oke, School of Mathematics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Email: petero@maths.unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Sixty-day simulations of the subinertial continental shelf circulation off Oregon are performed for a hindcast study of summer 1999. Model results are compared with in situ currents, high-frequency radar–derived surface currents, and hydrographic measurements obtained from an array of moored instruments and field surveys. The correlations between observed and modeled alongshore currents and temperatures in water depths of 50 m are in excess of 0.8. A study designed to test the model's sensitivity to different initial stratification, surface forcing, domain size, and river forcing demonstrates that surface heating is important, and that the model results are sensitive to initial stratification. An objective criterion for assessing the skill of a model simulation relative to a control simulation is outlined, providing an objective means for identifying the best model simulation. The model–data comparisons demonstrate that temperature fluctuations off Newport are primarily in response to surface heating and that subsurface density fluctuations are controlled by the wind-forced circulation through salinity. Experiments with river forcing indicate that, in the vicinity of Newport, the Columbia River plume is typically greater than 15 km from the coast and is confined to the top few meters of the water column. Additionally, the model–data comparisons suggest that the strongest upwelling occurs to the north of Newport where the continental shelf is relatively narrow and uniform in the alongshore direction. Part II of this study investigates the modeled three-dimensional circulation and dynamical balances.

Current affiliation: School of Mathematics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Corresponding author address: Dr. Peter R. Oke, School of Mathematics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Email: petero@maths.unsw.edu.au

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