The Effect of Stratification on Wind-Driven, Cross-Shelf Circulation and Transport on the Inner Continental Shelf

Rachel Horwitz, Ph.D., 2012
Steven Lentz, Advisor

Observations from a three-year field program on the inner shelf south of Martha's Vineyard, MA and a numerical model are used to describe the effect of stratification on inner shelf circulation, transport, and sediment resuspension height. Thermal stratification above the bottom mixed layer is shown to cap the height to which sediment is resuspended. Stratification increases the transport driven by cross-shelf wind stresses, and this effect is larger in the response to offshore winds than onshore winds. However, a one-dimensional view of the dynamics is not sufficient to explain the relationship between circulation and stratification. An idealized, cross-shelf transect in a numerical model (ROMS) is used to isolate the effects of stratification, wind stress magnitude, surface heat flux, cross-shelf density gradient, and wind direction on the inner shelf response to the cross-shelf component of the wind stress. In well mixed and weakly stratified conditions, the cross-shelf density gradient can be used to predict the transport efficiency of the cross-shelf wind stress. In stratified conditions, the presence of an along-shelf wind stress component makes the inner shelf response to cross-shelf wind stress strongly asymmetric.