Mid-latitude continental shelves undergo a spring transition as the net surface heat flux changes from cooling to warming. Using in situ data and a numerical circulation model we investigate the circulation and temperature budget on the West Florida Continental Shelf (WFS) for the spring transition of 1999. The model is a regional adaptation of the primitive equation, Princeton Ocean Model forced by NCEP reanalysis wind and heat flux fields and by river inflows. Based on agreements between the modeled and observed fields we use the model to draw inferences on how the surface momentum and heat fluxes affect the seasonal and synoptic scale variability. We account for a strong southeastward current at mid-shelf by the baroclinic response to combined wind and buoyancy forcing, and we show how this local forcing leads to annually occurring cold and low salinity tongues. Through term-by-term analyses of the temperature budget we describe the WFS temperature evolution in spring. Heat flux largely controls the seasonal transition, whereas ocean circulation largely controls the synoptic scale variability. These two processes, however, are closely linked. Bottom topography and coastline geometry are important in generating regions of convergence and divergence. Rivers contribute to the local hydrography and are important ecologically. Along with upwelling, river inflows facilitate frontal aggregation of nutrients and the spring formation of a high concentration chlorophyll plume near the shelf break (the so-called ‘Green River’) coinciding with the cold, low salinity tongues. These features originate by local, shelf-wide forcing; the Loop Current is not an essential ingredient.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||West Florida shelf circulation and temperature budget for the 1999 spring transition|
|Series title||Continental Shelf Research|
|Contributing office(s)||St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Gulf of Mexico|