The effect of wind on the dispersal of a tropical small river plume
Wanquan River is a small river located in Hainan, a tropical island in China. As the third largest river in Hainan, the river plume plays an important role in the regional terrigenous mass transport, coastal circulation, and the coral reef’s ecosystem. Studies have shown that wind forcings significantly influence river plume dynamics. In this study, wind effects on the dispersal of the river plume and freshwater transport were examined numerically using a calibrated, unstructured, finite volume numerical model (FVCOM). Both wind direction and magnitude were determined to influence plume dispersal. Northeasterly (downwelling-favorable) winds drove freshwater down-shelf while southeasterly (onshore) winds drove water up-shelf (in the sense of Kelvin wave propagation), and were confined near the coast. Southwesterly (upwelling-favorable) and north-westerly (offshore) winds transport more freshwater offshore. The transport flux is decomposed into an advection, a vertical shear, and an oscillatory component. The advection flux dominates the freshwater transport in the coastal area and the vertical shear flux is dominant in the offshore area. For the upwelling-favorable wind, the freshwater transport becomes more controlled by the advection transport with an increase in wind stress, due to enhanced vertical mixing. The relative importance of wind forcing and buoyancy force was investigated. It was found that, when the Wedderburn number is larger than one, the plume was dominated by wind forcing, although the importance of wind varies in different parts of the plume. The water column stratification decreased as a whole under the prevailing southwesterly wind, with the exception of the up-shelf and offshore areas.
Keywordssmall river plume wind effect freshwater transport
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This study is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 40976052). This research is supported in part by Special Program for Applied Research on Super Computation of the NSFC-Guangdong Joint Fund (the second phase). The authors would like to acknowledge Mr. Mac Sisson of Virginia Institute of Marine Science for his help in editing the manuscript. We are also grateful for the three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript.
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