Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans






3331 (13 pages)


A combination of current velocity and water density measurements was used to characterize the basic patterns of water exchange in the Gulf of Fonseca, a tropical estuary on the Pacific Ocean side of Central America. The measurements were obtained during spring and neap tides in March ( dry season) and June ( wet season) of 2001 and consisted of profiles of current velocity and density along four transects. From mid-March to mid-April a time series of hourly surface current velocity maps was also obtained with a high-frequency radar system of two antennas. The sampling transects and the radar coverage concentrated in the portion of the estuary that has open communication with the ocean. During the dry season, water exchange at the entrance to the gulf suggested an inverse estuarine circulation that was more robust, and its dynamics were closer to geostrophy during neap than during spring tides. It is likely that salinity increased toward the tributaries of the system and then decreased within those tributaries because of the persistent influence of fresh water. In contrast, during the wet season, salinity decreased into the estuary, and the circulation resembled that of a typical estuary. In this season the fortnightly modulation of exchange flows was masked by wind effects, which also played a relevant role in the dynamics. The net volume inflows measured in both seasons suggested that the residence time of the Gulf of Fonseca varies from 2 weeks to 1 month.

Original Publication Citation

Valle-Levinson, A., & Bosley, K. T. (2003). Reversing circulation patterns in a tropical estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 108, 3331. doi:10.1029/2003jc001786

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Oceanography Commons


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