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Thermally Driven Exchanges between a Coral Reef and the Adjoining Ocean

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  • 1 Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • | 2 H. Steinitz Marine Biological Laboratory, Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science, The Hebrew University, Eilat, Israel
  • | 3 Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • | 4 H. Steinitz Marine Biological Laboratory, Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science, The Hebrew University, Eilat, Israel
  • | 5 Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, California
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Abstract

In this paper hydrographic observations made over a fringing coral reef at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba near Eilat, Israel, are discussed. These data show exchange flows driven by the onshore–offshore temperature gradients that develop because shallow regions near shore experience larger temperature changes than do deeper regions offshore when subjected to the same rate of heating or cooling. Under heating conditions, the resulting vertically sheared exchange flow is offshore at the surface and onshore at depth, whereas when cooling dominates, the pattern is reversed. For summer conditions, heating and cooling are both important and a diurnally reversing exchange flow is observed. During winter conditions, heating occupies a relatively small fraction of the day, and only the cooling flow is observed. When scaled by ΔV, the observed profiles of the cross-shore during cooling velocity collapse onto a single curve. The value of ΔV depends on the convective velocity scale uf and the bottom slope β through the inertial scaling, ΔVβ−1/3uf first proposed by Phillips in the 1960s as a model of buoyancy-driven flow in the Red Sea. However, it is found that turbulent stresses associated with the longshore tidal flows and unsteadiness due to the periodic nature of the buoyancy forcing can act to weaken the sheared exchange flow. Nonetheless, the measured exchange flow transport agrees well with previous field and laboratory work. The paper is concluded by noting that the “thermal siphon” observed on the Eilat reef may be a relatively generic feature of the nearshore physical oceanography of reefs and coastal oceans in general.

* Current affiliation: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California

+ Current affiliation: Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Corresponding author address: S. G. Monismith, Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4020. Email: monismith@stanford.edu

Abstract

In this paper hydrographic observations made over a fringing coral reef at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba near Eilat, Israel, are discussed. These data show exchange flows driven by the onshore–offshore temperature gradients that develop because shallow regions near shore experience larger temperature changes than do deeper regions offshore when subjected to the same rate of heating or cooling. Under heating conditions, the resulting vertically sheared exchange flow is offshore at the surface and onshore at depth, whereas when cooling dominates, the pattern is reversed. For summer conditions, heating and cooling are both important and a diurnally reversing exchange flow is observed. During winter conditions, heating occupies a relatively small fraction of the day, and only the cooling flow is observed. When scaled by ΔV, the observed profiles of the cross-shore during cooling velocity collapse onto a single curve. The value of ΔV depends on the convective velocity scale uf and the bottom slope β through the inertial scaling, ΔVβ−1/3uf first proposed by Phillips in the 1960s as a model of buoyancy-driven flow in the Red Sea. However, it is found that turbulent stresses associated with the longshore tidal flows and unsteadiness due to the periodic nature of the buoyancy forcing can act to weaken the sheared exchange flow. Nonetheless, the measured exchange flow transport agrees well with previous field and laboratory work. The paper is concluded by noting that the “thermal siphon” observed on the Eilat reef may be a relatively generic feature of the nearshore physical oceanography of reefs and coastal oceans in general.

* Current affiliation: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California

+ Current affiliation: Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Corresponding author address: S. G. Monismith, Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4020. Email: monismith@stanford.edu

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