Observations and modeling of seasonal variability in the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca
Abstract:The Strait of Georgia is a large semi-enclosed basin on the southern coast of British Columbia. Its main connection to the Pacific is to the south, through Juan de Fuca Strait. Abundant freshwater discharge, mainly from the Fraser River, forces an estuarine exchange with oceanic shelf water. The resulting circulation is modulated by tides and winds. Both the coastal wind stress and the flux of freshwater are subject to strong seasonal modulations, producing a marked seasonal cycle in the water properties and circulation of the region.
The seasonal variability of the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait is described using data from a series of recent cruises conducted over a five-year period, in addition to longer term historical data sets. To complement the observations, the data are compared with numerical simulations based on the Princeton Ocean Model (POM). Forced with tides, freshwater discharge and seasonal wind stress, the model is integrated over a few years until the system approaches statistical equilibrium. Results show good agreement with observations from Juan de Fuca Strait, as well as over the upper part of the water column within the Strait of Georgia. However, simulation of the seasonal cycle of the deeper waters of the Strait of Georgia is more problematic. The deep water properties apparently are determined by a delicate balance between dense intrusions from the sill area and local vertical mixing.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 2004
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