intratidal dynamics of strongly forced, strongly stratified estuarine systems

Strongly forced, strongly stratified estuaries are less well understood than their well and partially-mixed counterparts. These estuaries often violate common assumptions employed in examining estuarine dynamics: the small amplitude assumption, and the assumption of a background density gradient that is relatively constant in time and space. Distinguishing features of these types of estuaries include: the tendency to be highly variable on tidal time scales, different temporal and spatial patterns of turbulent vertical mixing, a decreased importance of baroclinic forcing (i.e. forcing by the longitudinal density gradient), and the increased importance of shoal/channel interactions amongst others. Systems of this nature are particularly interesting to understand because of the importance of shallow water habitat and the rapid alterations in shallow/intertidal estuarine environments. Many estuarine systems and tidal mudflats fit within this regime motivating the need to better understand their dynamics and expand our understanding of estuarine systems to include this parameter space.

In particular, I have investigated the intratidal (within a tidal cycle) dynamics of the Snohomish River Estuary including the intratidal variation of currents, shear, turbulent vertical mixing, and longitudinal dispersion elucidating the important roles of both straining and advection of stratification.

For more information, see this paper.