Breaking surface wave effects on river plume dynamics during upwelling-favorable winds

Gregory P. Gerbi, Robert J. Chant, John L. Wilkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study examines the dynamics of a buoyant river plume in upwelling-favorable winds, concentrating on the time after separation from the coast. A set of idealized numerical simulations is used to examine the effects of breaking surface gravity waves on plume structure and cross-shore dynamics. Inclusion of a wavebreaking parameterization in the two-equation turbulence submodel causes the plume to be thicker and narrower, and to propagate offshore more slowly, than a plume in a simulation with no wave breaking. In simulations that include wave breaking, the plume has much smaller vertical gradients of salinity and velocity than in the simulation without breaking. This leads to decreased importance of shear dispersion in the plumes with wave breaking. Much of the widening rate of the plume is explained by divergent Ekman velocities at the off-and onshore edges. Some aspects of plume evolution in all cases are predicted well by a simple theory based on a critical Richardson number and an infinitely deep ocean. However, because the initial plume in these simulations is in contact with the sea floor in the inner shelf, some details are poorly predicted, especially around the time that the plume separates from the coast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1959-1980
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography


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