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Modeling the Pathways and Mean Dynamics of River Plume Dispersal in the New York Bight

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  • 1 Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey
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Abstract

This study investigates the dispersal of the Hudson River outflow across the New York Bight and the adjacent inner- through midshelf region. Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) simulations were used to examine the mean momentum dynamics; the freshwater dispersal pathways relevant to local biogeochemical processes; and the contribution from wind, remotely forced along-shelf current, tides, and the topographic control of the Hudson River shelf valley. The modeled surface currents showed many similarities to the surface currents measured by high-frequency radar [the Coastal Ocean Dynamics Applications Radar (CODAR)]. Analysis shows that geostrophic balance and Ekman transport dominate the mean surface momentum balance, with most of the geostrophic flow resulting from the large-scale shelf circulation and the rest being locally generated. Subsurface circulation is driven principally by the remotely forced along-shelf current, with the exception of a riverward water intrusion in the Hudson River shelf valley. The following three pathways by which freshwater is dispersed across the shelf were identified: (i) along the New Jersey coast, (ii) along the Long Island coast, and (iii) by a midshelf offshore pathway. Time series of the depth-integrated freshwater transport show strong seasonality in dispersal patterns: the New Jersey pathway dominates the winter–spring seasons when winds are downwelling favorable, while the midshelf pathway dominates summer months when winds are upwelling favorable. A series of reduced physics simulations identifies that wind is the major force for the spreading of freshwater to the mid- and outer shelf, that remotely forced along-shelf currents significantly influence the ultimate fate of the freshwater, and that the Hudson River shelf valley has a modest dynamic effect on the freshwater spreading.

Corresponding author address: Weifeng G. Zhang, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 71 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901. Email: zhang@marine.rutgers.edu

Abstract

This study investigates the dispersal of the Hudson River outflow across the New York Bight and the adjacent inner- through midshelf region. Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) simulations were used to examine the mean momentum dynamics; the freshwater dispersal pathways relevant to local biogeochemical processes; and the contribution from wind, remotely forced along-shelf current, tides, and the topographic control of the Hudson River shelf valley. The modeled surface currents showed many similarities to the surface currents measured by high-frequency radar [the Coastal Ocean Dynamics Applications Radar (CODAR)]. Analysis shows that geostrophic balance and Ekman transport dominate the mean surface momentum balance, with most of the geostrophic flow resulting from the large-scale shelf circulation and the rest being locally generated. Subsurface circulation is driven principally by the remotely forced along-shelf current, with the exception of a riverward water intrusion in the Hudson River shelf valley. The following three pathways by which freshwater is dispersed across the shelf were identified: (i) along the New Jersey coast, (ii) along the Long Island coast, and (iii) by a midshelf offshore pathway. Time series of the depth-integrated freshwater transport show strong seasonality in dispersal patterns: the New Jersey pathway dominates the winter–spring seasons when winds are downwelling favorable, while the midshelf pathway dominates summer months when winds are upwelling favorable. A series of reduced physics simulations identifies that wind is the major force for the spreading of freshwater to the mid- and outer shelf, that remotely forced along-shelf currents significantly influence the ultimate fate of the freshwater, and that the Hudson River shelf valley has a modest dynamic effect on the freshwater spreading.

Corresponding author address: Weifeng G. Zhang, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 71 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901. Email: zhang@marine.rutgers.edu

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