Estuarine boundary layer mixing processes: Insights from dye experiments

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Journal of Physical Oceanography
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A series of dye releases in the Hudson River estuary elucidated diapycnal mixing rates and temporal variability over tidal and fortnightly time scales. Dye was injected in the bottom boundary layer for each of four releases during different phases of the tide and of the spring-neap cycle. Diapycnal mixing occurs primarily through entrainment that is driven by shear production in the bottom boundary layer. On flood the dye extended vertically through the bottom mixed layer, and its concentration decreased abruptly near the base of the pycnocline, usually at a height corresponding to a velocity maximum. Boundary layer growth is consistent with a one-dimensional, stress-driven entrainment model. A model was developed for the vertical structure of the vertical eddy viscosity in the flood tide boundary layer that is proportional to u(*)(2)/N-infinity, where u(*) and N-infinity are the bottom friction velocity and buoyancy frequency above the boundary layer. The model also predicts that the buoyancy flux averaged over the bottom boundary layer is equal to 0.06N(infinity)u(*)(2) or, based on the structure of the boundary layer equal to 0.1N(BL)u(*)(2), where N-BL is the buoyancy frequency across the flood-tide boundary layer. Estimates of shear production and buoyancy flux indicate that the flux Richardson number in the flood-tide boundary layer is 0.1-0.18, consistent with the model indicating that the flux Richardson number is between 0.1 and 0.14. During ebb, the boundary layer was more stratified, and its vertical extent was not as sharply delineated as in the flood. During neap tide the rate of mixing during ebb was significantly weaker than on flood, owing to reduced bottom stress and stabilization by stratification. As tidal amplitude increased ebb mixing increased and more closely resembled the boundary layer entrainment process observed during the flood. Tidal straining modestly increased the entrainment rate during the flood, and it restratified the boundary layer and inhibited mixing during the ebb.


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Doi 10.1175/Jpo3088.1