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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans








A set of velocity profiles obtained in the James River estuary with an acoustic Doppler current profiler was used in combination with the results of an analytic tidal model to depict the appearance of surface lateral flow convergences (δv/δy) during both flood and ebb stages of the tidal cycle. The bathymetry of the estuary was characterized by a main channel and a secondary channel separated by relatively narrow shoals. Lateral surface flow convergences appeared over the edges of the channels and were produced by the phase lag of the flow in the channel relative to the shoals. Flood convergences developed in the late tidal stages and ebb convergences appeared soon after maximum currents. Most of these convergences caused fronts in the density field and flotsam lines that also appeared over the edges of the channel and that lasted <2 hours. The transverse flows associated with the convergences were mostly in the same direction throughout the water column. In fact, the vertically averaged flow produced the same convergence patterns as those near the surface. The analytic tidal model reproduced well the timing and location of the convergences as observed in the James River. Model results with different bathymetry emulated the results in other estuaries, e.g., axial convergence in an estuary with a channel in the middle. This work showed that the strength of lateral convergences along the estuary was proportional to the tidal amplitude and the channel steepness. It also suggested that the convergences were produced mainly by the tidal flow interacting with the channel-shoal bathymetry, i.e., that they did not require the presence of density gradients. However, the analytic model underestimated the magnitude of the convergences and did not account for vertical circulations associated with fronts. The formation of fronts resulted from the interaction of the tidal flow with the bathymetry and the density field.


Copyright 2000 by the American Geophysical Union

Original Publication Citation

Valle-Levinson, A., Li, C. Y., Wong, K. C., & Lwiza, K. M. M. (2000). Convergence of lateral flow along a coastal plain estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 105(C7), 17045-17061. doi:10.1029/2000jc900025

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