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Dynamics and Kinematics of an Estuarine Network

William Bryce Corlett, Ph.D., 2019
W. Rockwell Geyer, Advisor

This thesis addresses the dynamics of estuarine networks, based on hydrographic observations in Newark Bay, New Jersey. Estuarine networks differ from simple estuaries in that they may have multiple connections to the ocean, multiple freshwater sources, and contain junctions between estuarine segments. The Newark Bay estuarine network is connected to the sea through two tidal straits, is fed by multiple sources of fresh water, and is divided into a series of segments. Shipboard observations reveal that salinity fronts form at junctions during ebb tide and are advected landward during flood tide, substantially changing local salinities. The effect of tidal processes, such as frontal advection, on the exchange flow is investigated by applying the isohaline total exchange flow (TEF) framework to mooring-based observations. This reveals that most of the exchange flow within the estuary is driven by tidal processes. The TEF-based salt balance and the standard Eulerian salt balance, which are nearly identical, indicate that tidal processes also substantially contribute to the subtidal salt balance throughout the estuary. Because tidal processes within the estuary are largely associated with fronts, the large influence of tidal processes on the exchange flow is likely due to the prevalence of junctions within the estuarine network.