Observations of turbulence in a partially stratified estuary

Journal of Physical Oceanography
By: , and 



The authors present a field study of estuarine turbulence in which profiles of Reynolds stresses were directly measured using an ADCP throughout a 25-h tidal day. The dataset that is discussed quantifies turbulent mixing for a water column in northern San Francisco Bay that experiences a sequence of states that includes a weak ebb and flood that are stratified, followed by a strong, and eventually unstratified, ebb and flood. These measurements show that energetic turbulence is confined to a bottom mixed layer by the overlying stratification. Examination of individual Reynolds stress profiles along with profiles of Richardson number and turbulent Froude number shows that the water column can be divided into regions based on the relative importance of buoyancy effects.

Using the measured turbulence production rate P, the dissipation rate ϵ is estimated. The observed turbulence had values of ϵ/νN2 > 20 all of the time and ϵ/νN2 > 200 most of the time, suggesting that the observed motions were buoyancy affected turbulence rather than internal waves. However, at times, turbulent Froude numbers in much of the upper-water column were less than one, indicating important stratification effects. Taken as a whole, the data show that stratification affects the turbulent velocity variance q2 most severely; that is, observed reductions in are largely associated with small values of q2rather than with a dramatic reduction in the efficiency with which turbulent motions produce momentum fluxes.

Finally, the dataset is compared to predictions made using the popular Mellor–Yamada level 2.5 closure. These comparisons show that the model tends to underestimate the turbulent kinetic energy in regions of strong stratification where the turbulence is strongly inhomogeneous and to overestimate the turbulent kinetic energy in weakly stratified regions. The length scale does not appear to compensate for these errors, and, as a result, similar errors are seen in the eddy viscosity predictions. It is hypothesized that the underestimation of q2 is due to an inaccurate parameterization of turbulence self-transport from the near-bed region to the overlying stratification.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Observations of turbulence in a partially stratified estuary
Series title Journal of Physical Oceanography
DOI 10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<1950:OOTIAP>2.0.CO;2
Volume 29
Issue 8 PART 2
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher AMS
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 21 p.
First page 1950
Last page 1970
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