Observations in the Gulf of Maine, USA, were used to characterize the freshwater transport, temporal variability and dynamics of the western Maine coastal current. These observations included moored measurements, multiple hydrographic surveys, and drifter releases during April-July of 1993 and 1994. There is a strong seasonal signal in salinity and along-shore velocity of the coastal current, caused by the freshwater inputs of the rivers entering the western Gulf. Surface salinity within the coastal current during the spring freshet is typically 2psu below ambient, and along-shore currents in the surface layer are directed southwestward at speeds of 0.10-0.20ms-1, occasionally reaching 0.50ms-1. The plume thickness is typically 10-20m in water depths of 50-100m, thus it is well isolated from the bottom over most of its areal extent. The along-coast freshwater transport within the plume varies considerably due to variations in wind stress, but on time scales of weeks to months it follows the variations of riverine input, with a time lag consistent with the advective velocity. Less than half of the transport of the coastal current is explained by the baroclinic gradient; the barotropic forcing associated with the larger-scale dynamics of the Gulf of Maine accounts for about 60% of the transport. The volume of freshwater transport in the coastal current exceeds the local riverine input of fresh water by 30%, suggesting a significant contribution of freshwater transport from the St. John River, 500km northeastward. The measurements within the western Maine coastal current, however, indicate a significant decrease in the baroclinic transport of fresh water along the coast, with an e-folding scale of approximately 200km. ?? 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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The freshwater transport and dynamics of the western Maine coastal current