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Hydraulic Control of a Highly Stratified Estuarine Front

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  • 1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Observations at the mouth of the Fraser River (British Columbia, Canada) indicate an abrupt frontal transition between unstratified river outflow and a highly stratified river plume with differences in salinity greater than 25 psu across a few meters in the vertical direction and several hundred meters in the horizontal direction. The front roughly follows a natural break in the bathymetry, crossing the channel at an angle of approximately 45°, and is essentially stationary for a period of approximately 3.5 h centered on the low tide following the larger of two daily ebbs. The location of the front is coincident with observations of significantly supercritical internal Froude numbers at the front, based on velocities in the along-flow direction. This observation contradicts the one-dimensional theory, which indicates that the Froude number should be 1. However, because the front is oriented obliquely to the outflow, a coordinate system can be selected that is normal to the front and for which a critical Froude number of 1 is obtained. This indicates that a Froude angle, similar in application to a Mach angle for transonic flows, can be used to determine critical conditions when the front is oblique to the principal flow direction.

+ Current affiliation: School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Corresponding author address: Daniel MacDonald, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Boulevard, New Bedford, MA 02744-1221. Email: dmacdonald@umassd.edu

Abstract

Observations at the mouth of the Fraser River (British Columbia, Canada) indicate an abrupt frontal transition between unstratified river outflow and a highly stratified river plume with differences in salinity greater than 25 psu across a few meters in the vertical direction and several hundred meters in the horizontal direction. The front roughly follows a natural break in the bathymetry, crossing the channel at an angle of approximately 45°, and is essentially stationary for a period of approximately 3.5 h centered on the low tide following the larger of two daily ebbs. The location of the front is coincident with observations of significantly supercritical internal Froude numbers at the front, based on velocities in the along-flow direction. This observation contradicts the one-dimensional theory, which indicates that the Froude number should be 1. However, because the front is oriented obliquely to the outflow, a coordinate system can be selected that is normal to the front and for which a critical Froude number of 1 is obtained. This indicates that a Froude angle, similar in application to a Mach angle for transonic flows, can be used to determine critical conditions when the front is oblique to the principal flow direction.

+ Current affiliation: School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Corresponding author address: Daniel MacDonald, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Boulevard, New Bedford, MA 02744-1221. Email: dmacdonald@umassd.edu

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