A study of intermediate water circulation in the Strait of Georgia using tracer-based, Eulerian, and Lagrangian methods

View More View Less
  • 1 Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2020–2207 Main Mall, Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4
© Get Permissions
Restricted access

Abstract

The intermediate circulation of the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada, plays a key role in dispersing contaminants throughout the Salish Sea, yet little is known about its dynamics. Here, we use hydrographic observations and hindcast fields from a regional 3D model to approach the intermediate circulation from three perspectives. Firstly, we derive and model a “seasonality” tracer from temperature observations to age the water, estimate mixing, and infer circulation. Secondly, we analyze modeled velocity fields to create mean current maps and examine the advective and diffusive components of the mean flow field. Lastly, we calculate Lagrangian trajectories to derive Transit Time Distributions and Lagrangian statistics. In combination, these analyses provide an overview of the mean intermediate circulation that can be summarized as follows: subducting water in Haro Strait ventilates the intermediate water primarily via an up-strait boundary current that flows along the eastern shores of the southernmost basin in 1–2 months. This inflowing water is either incorporated into the interior of the basin, recirculated southwards, or transported into the northernmost basin, mixing steadily with adjacent water masses during its transit. A second, shallower ventilating jet emanates southwards from Discovery Passage, locally modifying the Haro Strait inflow signal. Outside of these well-defined advective features, diffusive transport dominates in the majority of the region. The intermediate renewal signal fully ventilates the region in 100–140 days, which serves as a benchmark for contaminant dispersal timescale estimates.

Corresponding author: S. W. Stevens, sstevens@eoas.ubc.ca

Abstract

The intermediate circulation of the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada, plays a key role in dispersing contaminants throughout the Salish Sea, yet little is known about its dynamics. Here, we use hydrographic observations and hindcast fields from a regional 3D model to approach the intermediate circulation from three perspectives. Firstly, we derive and model a “seasonality” tracer from temperature observations to age the water, estimate mixing, and infer circulation. Secondly, we analyze modeled velocity fields to create mean current maps and examine the advective and diffusive components of the mean flow field. Lastly, we calculate Lagrangian trajectories to derive Transit Time Distributions and Lagrangian statistics. In combination, these analyses provide an overview of the mean intermediate circulation that can be summarized as follows: subducting water in Haro Strait ventilates the intermediate water primarily via an up-strait boundary current that flows along the eastern shores of the southernmost basin in 1–2 months. This inflowing water is either incorporated into the interior of the basin, recirculated southwards, or transported into the northernmost basin, mixing steadily with adjacent water masses during its transit. A second, shallower ventilating jet emanates southwards from Discovery Passage, locally modifying the Haro Strait inflow signal. Outside of these well-defined advective features, diffusive transport dominates in the majority of the region. The intermediate renewal signal fully ventilates the region in 100–140 days, which serves as a benchmark for contaminant dispersal timescale estimates.

Corresponding author: S. W. Stevens, sstevens@eoas.ubc.ca
Save