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Physical processes in the ROFI regime
Simpson, J.H. (1997). Physical processes in the ROFI regime, in: Ruddick, K. Processes in regions of freshwater influence (PROFILE): selected papers from the 27th International Liège Colloquium on Ocean Hydrodynamics, held in Liège, Belgium, on May 8-12, 1995. Journal of Marine Systems, 12(Special Issue 1-4): pp. 3-15
In: Ruddick, K. (1997). Processes in regions of freshwater influence (PROFILE): selected papers from the 27th International Liège Colloquium on Ocean Hydrodynamics, held in Liège, Belgium, on May 8-12, 1995. Journal of Marine Systems, 12(Special Issue 1-4). Elsevier: The Netherlands. 1-326 pp., more
In: Journal of Marine Systems. Elsevier: Tokyo; Oxford; New York; Amsterdam. ISSN 0924-7963, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Buoyancy; Coastal currents; Freshwaters; Mixing; Stratification; Marine; Fresh water

Author  Top 
  • Simpson, J.H.

Abstract
    The distinctive feature of all ROFI (Regions Of Freshwater Influence) systems is the input of significant amounts of buoyancy as freshwater from river sources. If the spatial scale is unrestricted by coastal topography and stirring is weak, this input tends to drive a coast-parallel flow in which the Coriolis force constrains a wedge of low density water against the coastal boundary. Without frictional effects, this flow is subject to baroclinic instability which induces large meanders and eddies in the flow but in, many ROFIs, the tidal flow induces frictional effects which stabilise the density driven flow.In the absence of the effects of rotation and stirring, the buoyancy input tends to induce stratification through an estuarine circulation in the direction of the gradient. When stirring is applied, by the action of wind, waves or tidal flow, the density current is suppressed but is rapidly re-established when stirring ceases, as in the Linden-Simpson (1988) laboratory tank experiments. In real ROFI systems, a combination of all these processes operates so that the structure of the water column and the flow is the result of a competition between the stratifying influence of buoyancy input and the net stirring effect of the wind, waves and the tides. This competition is more difficult to analyse than the heating-stirring competition, because freshwater buoyancy input is not spatially uniform but enters at discrete sources along the coast and its subsequent spreading has to be determined.While the springs-neaps cycle in tidal stirring imposes a regular fortnightly modulation on vertical mixing, the influence of the wind is irregular and depends, not just on the magnitude of the stress, but also on the direction in which it acts. In some exposed shallow water situations there may also be significant stirring due to waves generated by non-local winds.ROFI systems are further complicated by the action of tidal straining in which differential advection, due to vertical shear in the tide, interacts with the density gradient to generate fluctuations in vertical stability at the tidal frequency which, in some cases, are of sufficient amplitude to switch the water column between stable stratification and vertical density homogeneity each tidal cycle. This straining along with the other ROFI processes have been incorporated into a series of 1-D models to provide a more objective test of the hypotheses about the mechanisms involved. Comparison of model hindcasts with observations indicate that we now have a first-order understanding of the complex behaviour of ROFIs.On a global scale it is clear that ROFIs represent an important component of the shelf-sea environment of particular concern in relation to the impact of pollutant discharges. To date, most studies of ROFI's have concentrated on systems in temperate latitudes but attention needs to be focused on the very extensive ROFIs in tropical regions where most of the world's river discharge enters the ocean. In monsoonal regions, these inputs exhibit strong seasonal modulation which may, in competition with tidal stirring, result in an annual cycle of stratification and the formation of fronts.

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