The behavior of the estuarine turbidity maximum (ETM) in response to freshwater flow, tidal forcing, and bed dynamics has been studied extensively by many researchers. However, the majority of investigations focus on the longitudinal position and strength of the ETM, which can vary over tidal, spring-neap, and seasonal timescales. ETMs may become longitudinally fixed due to bathymetric constraints, and thus the lateral position may vary significantly on differing timescales. Lateral dynamics of the ETM may affect contaminant uptake in biologically active regions, while local deposition patterns may be affected by the dominant lateral position. A longitudinally fixed ETM in Carquinez Strait, California, was studied to specifically investigate the dynamics of lateral ETM variability during April 2004. an abrupt topographical control on the north side restricts gravitational circulation resulting in convergence and particle trapping, creating the ETM. The cross-section was continuously monitored with two upward-looking velocity profilers and four optical backscatterance sensors. In addition, cross-sectional measurements over one tidal cycle were performed during a spring tide with boat-mounted velocity and water quality profilers. The lateral and vertical positions of the ETM center of mass varied by a maximum of 250 and 5 m, respectively (20% of width and 17% of depth) over the tidal timescale, while tidally averaged lateral and vertical positions varied substantially less (50 and 1 m, respectively). ETM position responded to tidal energy (Urms), with higher vertical position and a laterally centered position resulting from increased mixing during spring tides, and a northerly lateral position from decreased mixing during neap tides. Hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling of this period reproduces the lateral and vertical movements of the ETM center of mass. Modeling results indicate increased gravitational circulation in the strait and enhanced particle trapping on the north side during neap tides, thus displacing the ETM center of mass to the north. The south side has no topographical control, and therefore no particle trapping mechanism exists on the south side. Secondary circulation is strengthened on spring tides, distributing near-bed sediment toward the south. The field and modeling results are in agreement with previous work in Carquinez Strait and further elucidate the strong lateral variation of the ETM, even in narrow, energetic tidal straits. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Chapter 24 Lateral variability of the estuarine turbidity maximum in a tidal strait