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Elisabeth Schulz, Henk M. Schuttelaars, Ulf Gräwe, and Hans Burchard

Abstract

The dependency of the estuarine circulation on the depth-to-width ratio of a periodically, weakly stratified tidal estuary is systematically investigated here for the first time. Currents, salinity, and other properties are simulated by means of the General Estuarine Transport Model (GETM) in cross-sectional slice mode, applying a symmetric Gaussian-shaped depth profile. The width is varied over four orders of magnitude. The individual along-channel circulation contributions from tidal straining, gravitation, advection, etc., are calculated and the impact of the depth-to-width ratio on their intensity is presented and elucidated. It is found that the estuarine circulation exhibits a distinct maximum in medium-wide channels (intermediate depth-to-width ratio depending on various parameters), which is caused by a maximum of the tidal straining contribution. This maximum is related to a strong tidal asymmetry of eddy viscosity and shear created by secondary strain-induced periodic stratification (2SIPS): in medium channels, transverse circulation generated by lateral density gradients due to laterally differential longitudinal advection induces stable stratification at the end of the flood phase, which is further increased during ebb by longitudinal straining (SIPS). Thus, eddy viscosity is low and shear is strong in the entire ebb phase. During flood, SIPS decreases the stratification so that eddy viscosity is high and shear is weak. The circulation resulting from this viscosity–shear correlation, the tidal straining circulation, is oriented like the classical, gravitational circulation, with riverine outflow at the surface and oceanic inflow close to the bottom. In medium channels, it is about 5 times as strong as in wide (quasi one-dimensional) channels, in which 2SIPS is negligible.

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Hans Burchard, Robert D. Hetland, Elisabeth Schulz, and Henk M. Schuttelaars

Abstract

The generation of residual circulation in a tidally energetic estuary with constant longitudinal salinity gradient and parabolic cross section is examined by means of a two-dimensional cross-sectional numerical model, neglecting river runoff and Stokes drift. It is shown how the longitudinal and lateral residual circulation can be decomposed into contributions from various processes such as tidal straining circulation, gravitational circulation, advectively driven circulation, and horizontal mixing circulation. The sensitivity of the residual circulation and its components from various processes to changes in forcing is investigated by varying the Simpson number (nondimensional longitudinal buoyancy gradient) and the unsteadiness parameter (nondimensional tidal frequency), as well as the bed roughness and the width of the estuary. For relatively weak salinity gradient forcing, the tidal straining circulation dominates the residual exchange circulation in support of classical estuarine circulation (up-estuary flow near the bed and down-estuary flow near the surface). The strength of the longitudinal estuarine circulation clearly increases with increased salinity gradient forcing. However, when the Simpson number exceeds 0.15, the relative contributions of both gravitational circulation and advectively driven circulation to estuarine circulation increase substantially. Lateral residual circulation is relatively weak for small Simpson numbers and becomes flood oriented (divergent flow near the bed and convergent flow near the surface) for larger Simpson numbers because of increasing contributions from gravitational and advectively driven circulation. Increasing the unsteadiness number leads to decreased longitudinal and lateral residual circulation. Although changes in bed roughness result in relatively small changes in residual circulation, results are sensitive to the width of the estuary, mainly because of changes in residual exchange circulation driven by tidal straining.

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Knut Klingbeil, Johannes Becherer, Elisabeth Schulz, Huib E. de Swart, Henk M. Schuttelaars, Arnoldo Valle-Levinson, and Hans Burchard

Abstract

This paper presents thickness-weighted averaging (TWA) in generalized vertical coordinates as a unified framework for a variety of existing tidal-averaging concepts in seas and estuaries. Vertical profiles of resulting residual quantities depend on the specific vertical coordinate, which is held fixed during the averaging process. This dependence is demonstrated through the application to one-dimensional analytical tidal flow with sediment transport, to field observations from a tidal channel, and to model results from a two-dimensional estuary. The use of different coordinate systems provides complementary views on the residual dynamics and stresses the importance of a correct interpretation of residual quantities obtained by tidal averaging.

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