Two sets of moorings were deployed along a cross-shelf transect in central Santa Monica bay for four months in the winter of 1998-1999. Both sites had an array of instruments attached to tripods set on the seafloor to monitor currents over the entire water column, surface waves, near-bed temperature, water clarity and suspended sediment. A companion mooring had temperature sensors spaced approximately 10 m apart to measure temperature profiles between the surface and the seafloor. One array was deployed in 70 m of water at a site adjacent to the shelf break, just northwest of a major ocean outfall. The other was deployed on the mid shelf in 35 m of water approximately 6 km from the shelf break site. The subtidal currents in the region flowed parallel to the isobaths with fluctuating time scales around 10 days, a typical coastal-ocean pattern. However, during the falling phase of the barotropic spring tide, sets of large-amplitude, sheared cross-shore current pulses with a duration of 2-5 h were observed at the shelf break site. Currents in these pulses flowed exclusively offshore in a thin layer near the bed with amplitudes reaching 30-40 cm/s. Simultaneously, currents with amplitudes around 15-20 cm/s flowed exclusively onshore in the thicker layer between the offshore flow layer and the sea surface. The net offshore transport was about half the onshore transport. Near-surface isotherms were depressed 30-40 m. These pulses were likely internal bores generated by tidal currents. Bed stresses associated with these events exceeded 3 dynes/cm2. These amplitudes are large enough to resuspend and transport not only fine-grained material, but also medium to coarse sands from the shelf toward the slope. Consequently, the seafloor over the shelf break was swept clear of fine sediments. The data suggest that the internal bores dissipate and are reduced in amplitude as they propagate across this relatively narrow shelf. There is evidence that they reach the 35 m site, but other coastal ocean processes obscure their distinctive characteristics.
Additional publication details
Observations of large-amplitude cross-shore internal bores near the shelf break, Santa Monica Bay, CA