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Malcolm E. Scully

Abstract

Extensive hypoxia remains a problem in Chesapeake Bay, despite some reductions in estimated nutrient inputs. An analysis of a 58-yr time series of summer hypoxia reveals that a significant fraction of the interannual variability observed in Chesapeake Bay is correlated to changes in summertime wind direction that are the result of large-scale climate variability. Beginning around 1980, the surface pressure associated with the summer Bermuda high has weakened, favoring winds from a more westerly direction, the direction most correlated with observed hypoxia. Regression analysis suggests that the long-term increase in hypoxic volume observed in this dataset is only accounted for when both changes in wind direction and nitrogen loading are considered.

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Malcolm E. Scully and Carl T. Friedrichs

Abstract

Measurements collected in the York River estuary, Virginia, demonstrate the important impact that tidal and lateral asymmetries in turbulent mixing have on the tidally averaged residual circulation. A reduction in turbulent mixing during the ebb phase of the tide caused by tidal straining of the axial density gradient results in increased vertical velocity shear throughout the water column during the ebb tide. In the absence of significant lateral differences in turbulent mixing, the enhanced ebb-directed transport caused by tidal straining is balanced by a reduction in the net seaward-directed barotropic pressure gradient, resulting in laterally uniform two-layer residual flow. However, the channel–shoal morphology of many drowned river valley estuaries often leads to lateral gradients in turbulent mixing. Tidal straining may then lead to tidal asymmetries in turbulent mixing near the deeper channel while the neighboring shoals remain relatively well mixed. As a result, the largest lateral asymmetries in turbulent mixing occur at the end of the ebb tide when the channel is significantly more stratified than the shoals. The reduced friction at the end of ebb delays the onset of the flood tide, increasing the duration of ebb in the channel. Conversely, over the shoal regions where stratification is more inhibited by tidal mixing, there is greater friction and the transition from ebb to flood occurs more rapidly. The resulting residual circulation is seaward over the channel and landward over the shoal. The shoal–channel segregation of this barotropically induced estuarine residual flow is opposite to that typically associated with baroclinic estuarine circulation over channel–shoal bathymetry.

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Malcolm E. Scully and W. Rockwell Geyer

Abstract

Data from the Hudson River estuary demonstrate that the tidal variations in vertical salinity stratification are not consistent with the patterns associated with along-channel tidal straining. These observations result from three additional processes not accounted for in the traditional tidal straining model: 1) along-channel and 2) lateral advection of horizontal gradients in the vertical salinity gradient and 3) tidal asymmetries in the strength of vertical mixing. As a result, cross-sectionally averaged values of the vertical salinity gradient are shown to increase during the flood tide and decrease during the ebb. Only over a limited portion of the cross section does the observed stratification increase during the ebb and decrease during the flood. These observations highlight the three-dimensional nature of estuarine flows and demonstrate that lateral circulation provides an alternate mechanism that allows for the exchange of materials between surface and bottom waters, even when direct turbulent mixing through the pycnocline is prohibited by strong stratification.

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Malcolm E. Scully, W. Rockwell Geyer, and James A. Lerczak

Abstract

In most estuarine systems it is assumed that the dominant along-channel momentum balance is between the integrated pressure gradient and bed stress. Scaling the amplitude of the estuarine circulation based on this balance has been shown to have predictive skill. However, a number of authors recently highlighted important nonlinear processes that contribute to the subtidal dynamics at leading order. In this study, a previously validated numerical model of the Hudson River estuary is used to examine the forces driving the residual estuarine circulation and to test the predictive skill of two linear scaling relationships. Results demonstrate that the nonlinear advective acceleration terms contribute to the subtidal along-channel momentum balance at leading order. The contribution of these nonlinear terms is driven largely by secondary lateral flows. Under a range of forcing conditions in the model runs, the advective acceleration terms nearly always act in concert with the baroclinic pressure gradient, reinforcing the residual circulation. Despite the strong contribution of the nonlinear advective terms to the subtidal dynamical balance, a linear scaling accurately predicts the strength of the observed residual circulation in the model. However, this result is largely fortuitous, as this scaling does not account for two processes that are fundamental to the estuarine circulation. The skill of this scaling results because of the compensatory relationship between the contribution of the advective acceleration terms and the suppression of turbulence due to density stratification. Both of these processes, neither of which is accounted for in the linear scaling, increase the residual estuarine circulation but have an opposite dependence on tidal amplitude and, consequently, strength of stratification.

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Malcolm E. Scully, John H. Trowbridge, and Alexander W. Fisher

Abstract

Measurements just beneath the ocean surface demonstrate that the primary mechanism by which energy from breaking waves is transmitted into the water column is through the work done by the covariance of turbulent pressure and velocity fluctuations. The convergence in the vertical transport of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) balances the dissipation rate of TKE at first order and is nearly an order of magnitude greater than the sum of the integrated Eulerian and Stokes shear production. The measured TKE transport is consistent with a simple conceptual model that assumes roughly half of the surface flux of TKE by wave breaking is transmitted to depths greater than the significant wave height. During conditions when breaking waves are inferred, the direction of momentum flux is more aligned with the direction of wave propagation than with the wind direction. Both the energy and momentum fluxes occur at frequencies much lower than the wave band, consistent with the time scales associated with wave breaking. The largest instantaneous values of momentum flux are associated with strong downward vertical velocity perturbations, in contrast to the pressure work, which is associated with strong drops in pressure and upward vertical velocity perturbations.

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Malcolm E. Scully, W. Rocky Geyer, and John H. Trowbridge

Abstract

Field observations of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE), dissipation rate ε, and turbulent length scale demonstrate the impact of both density stratification and nonlocal turbulent production on turbulent momentum flux. The data were collected in a highly stratified salt wedge estuary using the Mobile Array for Sensing Turbulence (MAST). Estimates of the dominant length scale of turbulent motions obtained from the vertical velocity spectra provide field confirmation of the theoretical limitation imposed by either the distance to the boundary or the Ozmidov scale, whichever is smaller. Under boundary-limited conditions, anisotropy generally increases with increasing shear and decreased distance to the boundary. Under Ozmidov-limited conditions, anisotropy increases rapidly when the gradient Richardson number exceeds 0.25. Both boundary-limited and Ozmidov-limited conditions demonstrate significant deviations from a local production–dissipation balance that are largely consistent with simple scaling relationships for the vertical divergence in TKE flux. Both the impact of stratification and deviation from equilibrium turbulence observed in the data are largely consistent with commonly used turbulence closure models that employ “nonequilibrium” stability functions. The data compare most favorably with the nonequilibrium version of the L. H. Kantha and C. A. Clayson stability functions. Not only is this approach more consistent with the observed critical gradient Richardson number of 0.25, but it also accounts for the large deviations from equilibrium turbulence in a manner consistent with the observations.

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Alexander W. Fisher, Lawrence P. Sanford, and Malcolm E. Scully

Abstract

Observations of turbulent kinetic energy, dissipation, and turbulent stress were collected in the middle reaches of Chesapeake Bay and were used to assess second-moment closure predictions of turbulence generated beneath breaking waves. Dissipation scaling indicates that the turbulent flow structure observed during a 10-day wind event was dominated by a three-layer response that consisted of 1) a wave transport layer, 2) a surface log layer, and 3) a tidal, bottom boundary layer limited by stable stratification. Below the wave transport layer, turbulent mixing was limited by stable stratification. Within the wave transport layer, where dissipation was balanced by a divergence in the vertical turbulent kinetic energy flux, the eddy viscosity was significantly underestimated by second-moment turbulence closure models, suggesting that breaking waves homogenized the mixed surface layer to a greater extent than the simple model of TKE diffusing away from a source at the surface. While the turbulent transport of TKE occurred largely downgradient, the intermittent downward sweeps of momentum generated by breaking waves occurred largely independent of the mean shear. The underprediction of stress in the wave transport layer by second-moment closures was likely due to the inability of the eddy viscosity model to capture the nonlocal turbulent transport of the momentum flux beneath breaking waves. Finally, the authors hypothesize that large-scale coherent turbulent eddies played a significant role in transporting momentum generated near the surface to depth.

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Malcolm E. Scully, Alexander W. Fisher, Steven E. Suttles, Lawrence P. Sanford, and William C. Boicourt

Abstract

Measurements made as part of a large-scale experiment to examine wind-driven circulation and mixing in Chesapeake Bay demonstrate that circulations consistent with Langmuir circulation play an important role in surface boundary layer dynamics. Under conditions when the turbulent Langmuir number Lat is low (<0.5), the surface mixed layer is characterized by 1) elevated vertical turbulent kinetic energy; 2) decreased anisotropy; 3) negative vertical velocity skewness indicative of strong/narrow downwelling and weak/broad upwelling; and 4) strong negative correlations between low-frequency vertical velocity and the velocity in the direction of wave propagation. These characteristics appear to be primarily the result of the vortex force associated with the surface wave field, but convection driven by a destabilizing heat flux is observed and appears to contribute significantly to the observed negative vertical velocity skewness.

Conditions that favor convection usually also have strong Langmuir forcing, and these two processes probably both contribute to the surface mixed layer turbulence. Conditions in which traditional stress-driven turbulence is important are limited in this dataset. Unlike other shallow coastal systems where full water column Langmuir circulation has been observed, the salinity stratification in Chesapeake Bay is nearly always strong enough to prevent full-depth circulation from developing.

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Alexander W. Fisher, Lawrence P. Sanford, Malcolm E. Scully, and Steven E. Suttles

Abstract

The role of surface gravity waves in structuring the air–sea momentum flux is examined in the middle reaches of Chesapeake Bay. Observed wave spectra showed that wave direction in Chesapeake Bay is strongly correlated with basin geometry. Waves preferentially developed in the direction of maximum fetch, suggesting that dominant wave frequencies may be commonly and persistently misaligned with local wind forcing. Direct observations from an ultrasonic anemometer and vertical array of ADVs show that the magnitude and direction of stress changed across the air–sea interface, suggesting that a stress divergence occurred at or near the water surface. Using a numerical wave model in combination with direct flux measurements, the air–sea momentum flux was partitioned between the surface wave field and the mean flow. Results indicate that the surface wave field can store or release a significant fraction of the total momentum flux depending on the direction of the wind. When wind blew across dominant fetch axes, the generation of short gravity waves stored as much as 40% of the total wind stress. Accounting for the storage of momentum in the surface wave field closed the air–sea momentum budget. Agreement between the direction of Lagrangian shear and the direction of the stress vector in the mixed surface layer suggests that the observed directional difference was due to the combined effect of breaking waves producing downward sweeps of momentum in the direction of wave propagation and the straining of that vorticity field in a manner similar to Langmuir turbulence.

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