Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 113–126 | Cite as

Spatial structure of hydrography and flow in a Chilean fjord, Estuario Reloncaví

  • Arnoldo Valle-Levinson
  • Nandita Sarkar
  • Rosario Sanay
  • Doris Soto
  • Jorge León


Underway current velocity profiles were combined with temperature and salinity profiles at fixed stations to describe tidal and subtidal flow patterns in the middle of the northernmost Chilean fjord, Estuario Reloncaví. This is the first study involving current velocity measurements in this fjord. Reloncaví fjord is 55 km long, 2 km wide, and on average is 170 m deep. Measurements concentrated around a marked bend of the coastline, where an 8-km along-fjord transect was sampled during a semidiurnal tidal cycle in March 2002 and a 2-km cross-fjord transect was occupied, also during a semidiurnal cycle, in May 2004. The fjord hydrography showed a relatively thin (<5 m deep), continuously stratified, buoyant layer with stratification values >4 kg m−3 per meter of depth. Below this thin layer, the water was relatively homogeneous. Semidiurnal tidal currents had low amplitudes (<10 cm s−1) that allowed the persistence of a surface front throughout the tidal cycle. The front oscillated with a period of ca. 2.5 h and showed excursions of 2 km. The front oscillations could have been produced by a lateral seiche that corresponds to the natural period of oscillation across the fjord. This front could have also caused large (2 h) phase lags in the semidiurnal tidal currents, from one end of the transect to the other, within the buoyant layer. Tidal phases were relatively uniform underneath this buoyant layer. Subtidal flows showed a 3-layer pattern consisting of a surface layer (8 m thick, of 5 cm s−1 surface outflow), an intermediate layer (70 m thick, of 3 cm s−1 net inflow), and a bottom layer (below 80 m depth, of 3 cm s−1 net outflow). The surface outflow and, to a certain extent, the inflow layer were related to the buoyant water interacting with the ambient oceanic water. The inflowing layer and the bottom outflow were attributed to nonlinear effects associated with a tidal wave that reflects at the fjord's head. The weak subtidal currents followed the morphology of the bend and caused downwelling on the inside and upwelling on the outside part of the bend.


Tidal Current Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler Centrifugal Acceleration Form Drag Continental Shelf Research 
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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnoldo Valle-Levinson
    • 1
  • Nandita Sarkar
    • 2
  • Rosario Sanay
    • 3
  • Doris Soto
    • 4
  • Jorge León
    • 4
  1. 1.Civil and Coastal EngineeringUniversity of FloridaGainesville
  2. 2.Center for Coastal Physical OceanographyOld Dominion UniversityNorfolk
  3. 3.Marine Science Program, Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of South CarolinaColumbia
  4. 4.Facultad de Pesquerías y OceanografíaUniversidad Austral de ChilePuerto MonttChile

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