Marine Science Faculty Publications

Baroclinic Tidal Flows and Inundation Processes in Cook Inlet, Alaska: Numerical Modeling and Satellite Observations

L. Y. Oey
T. Ezer
C. Hu
Frank E. Muller-Karger, University of South Florida


A wetting and drying (WAD) algorithm is implemented in a baroclinic three-dimensional ocean circulation model of Cook Inlet, Alaska, where large tidal ranges (≈10 m) regularly expose extensive mudflats. The model includes tides and wind- and buoyancy-induced flows. In the upper Inlet, the model successfully simulates large amplification of tides and propagation of fast (3∈∼∈4 m s-1) tidal bores over shallow mudflats. The simulated return flows during ebb expose large areas (∼100 km2) of the mudflats. Medium-resolution (250- and 500-m) images obtained from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites were used to verify the model results by identifying the location, extent, and temporal changes of the exposed mudflat regions. The results demonstrate the value of operational, medium-resolution remote sensing data in evaluating the WAD model. Sensitivity tests show that WAD produces approximately 20% larger tidal amplitude and 10% slower phase than the corresponding experiment without WAD. In the deep channel of the central Inlet, the confluence of saline water of the lower Inlet with brackish water from rivers and melting ice from land around the upper Inlet produces a salinity front. At the simulated front, strong vertical circulation cells and surface convergence and currents develop, especially during the flood. The characteristics resemble those of "rip tides" often observed in this region.