Estuaries typically have a monotonic increase in salinity from freshwater at the head of the estuary to ocean water at the mouth, creating a consistent direction for the longitudinal baroclinic pressure gradient. However, Mare Island Strait in San Francisco Bay has a local salinity minimum created by the phasing of the currents at the junction of Mare Island and Carquinez Straits. The salinity minimum creates converging baroclinic pressure gradients in Mare Island Strait. Equipment was deployed at four stations in the straits for 6 months from September 1997 to March 1998 to measure tidal variability of velocity, conductivity, temperature, depth, and suspended sediment concentration. Analysis of the measured time series shows that on a tidal time scale in Mare Island Strait, the landward and seaward baroclinic pressure gradients in the local salinity minimum interact with the barotropic gradient, creating regions of enhanced shear in the water column during the flood and reduced shear during the ebb. On a tidally averaged time scale, baroclinic pressure gradients converge on the tidally averaged salinity minimum and drive a converging near-bed and diverging surface current circulation pattern, forming a "baroclinic convergence zone" in Mare Island Strait. Historically large sedimentation rates in this area are attributed to the convergence zone. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Effects of tidal current phase at the junction of two straits