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Free Content An estuarine box model of freshwater delivery to the coastal ocean for use in climate models

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Present day climate models employ a coarse horizontal grid that is unable to fully resolve estuaries or continental shelves. The importation of fresh water from rivers is critical to the state of deep ocean stratification, but currently the processing of that fresh water as it passes from the river through the estuary and adjacent shelf is not represented in the coastal boundary conditions of climate models. An efficient way to represent this input of fresh water to the deep ocean would be to treat the estuary and shelf domains as two coupled box models with river water input to the estuarine box and mixed fresh water and coastal water output from the shelf box to the deep ocean.

We develop and test the estuary box model here. The potential energy anomaly  is found from the five competing rates of change induced by freshwater inflow, mixed water outflow to the shelf, tidal mixing, surface heat flux, and wind-induced mixing. When application of the box model is made to the Delaware estuary, the wind mixing term contributes little. A 15-year time series of  compares surprisingly well with the calculations of a three-dimensional numerical model applied to the Delaware estuary. The results encourage the future development of a shelf box model as the next step in constructing needed boundary conditions for input of fresh water to the deep ocean component of coupled climate models.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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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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