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Free Content Fortnightly modulation of the estuarine circulation in Juan de Fuca Strait

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Riverine discharge into the Strait of Georgia sets up a well-defined estuarine circulation within Juan de Fuca Strait, the main path for the freshwater outflow to the continental shelf. At the landward end of Juan de Fuca Strait, the water flows through narrow channels in which strong tidal currents are known to induce significant mixing of the water column, and a spring-neap modulation of the estuarine exchange. A three-dimensional prognostic numerical model has been developed to study the circulation around Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In a series of simulations, the estuarine circulation within Juan de Fuca Strait is established by the Fraser River freshwater discharge. A fortnightly modulation is imposed on the mixing over the various sills to simulate the spring-neap tidal mixing regime. The resulting variation in the estuarine circulation is found to be largely limited to the eastern section of Juan de Fuca Strait, in the vicinity of the sills. Data from current meter moorings and surface salinity data from lighthouse stations compare favorably with the model results.

The effect of local wind forcing on the estuarine exchange is also examined. The model is capable of simulating those rare events during which a concurrence of river freshet, neap tide and northwest wind allows a stronger pulse of fresh surface water to escape relatively unmixed into the eastern end of Juan de Fuca Strait. The disturbance then propagates along the northern shore of the strait as a first mode internal Kelvin wave. Finally, the effect of the fortnightly modulation on the export of freshwater onto the continental shelf is examined. It is found that small amplitude coastal trapped waves are generated near the mouth of Juan de Fuca. However, this fortnightly signal is weak in comparison to the energetic wind-induced variations typically found over the shelf.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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