In the summer of 2001, a coastal ocean measurement program in the southeastern portion of San Pedro Bay, CA, was designed and carried out. One aim of the program was to determine the strength and effectiveness of local cross-shelf transport processes. A particular objective was to assess the ability of semidiurnal internal tidal currents to move suspended material a net distance across the shelf. Hence, a dense array of moorings was deployed across the shelf to monitor the transport patterns associated with fluctuations in currents, temperature and salinity. An associated hydrographic program periodically monitored synoptic changes in the spatial patterns of temperature, salinity, nutrients and bacteria. This set of measurements show that a series of energetic internal tides can, but do not always, transport subthermocline water, dissolved and suspended material from the middle of the shelf into the surfzone. Effective cross-shelf transport occurs only when (1) internal tides at the shelf break are strong and (2) subtidal currents flow strongly downcoast. The subtidal downcoast flow causes isotherms to tilt upward toward the coast, which allows energetic, nonlinear internal tidal currents to carry subthermocline waters into the surfzone. During these events, which may last for several days, the transported water remains in the surfzone until the internal tidal current pulses and/or the downcoast subtidal currents disappear. This nonlinear internal tide cross-shelf transport process was capable of carrying water and the associated suspended or dissolved material from the mid-shelf into the surfzone, but there were no observation of transport from the shelf break into the surfzone. Dissolved nutrients and suspended particulates (such as phytoplankton) transported from the mid-shelf into the nearshore region by nonlinear internal tides may contribute to nearshore algal blooms, including harmful algal blooms that occur off local beaches.
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Cross-shelf transport into nearshore waters due to shoaling internal tides in San Pedro Bay, CA