Buoyancy and wind forcing of a coastal current
Local winds and lateral buoyancy fluxes from estuaries constitute two major forcing mechanisms on the inner continental shelf of the Mid Atlantic Bight on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.A. We report observations of the resulting coastal current that suggest a linear superposition of the wind and buoyancy forced motions. This current, which we term the Delaware Coastal Current, has a mean flow of about 10 cm/s in the direction of Kelvin wave phase propagation. It opposes the generally upwelling favorable local winds there. The same winds, however, force important across-shelf flows that agree qualitatively with Ekman dynamics with Ekman numbers that are O(1). Velocity fluctuations at current meter mooring are consistent with the above dynamics, and explain the local hydrography well. Trajectories from drifters and derived velocity fields, too, reveal consistent flow patterns. We further find that Lagrangian and Eulerian integral time scales are similar, implying a linear flow field. We estimate dispersion coefficients for this buoyancy driven coastal current to be about 2000 and 200 m2/s in the along- and across-shelf direction, respectively. Our results disagree both qualitatively and quantitatively with those of a recent numerical model of the study area.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 May 1993
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