Marine Science Faculty Publications


Lagrangian Circulation and Forbidden Zone on the West Florida Shelf

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This paper presents some recent results of drifters released on the West Florida Shelf during 1996-1997 and compares with the numerical model results of the wind-driven circulation. Using satellite tracked surface drifters during the one year period from February 1996 to February 1997, a drifter free region, called the 'forbidden zone', is found over the southern portion of the West Florida Shelf. This finding is consistent with historical drift bottle data and with a recent numerical model study of the West Florida Shelf circulation response to climatological wind forcing. Direct drifter simulations by numerical model during March 1996 show a good agreement with both the in situ ADCP current observation and drifter observation. Three mechanisms are proposed for the observed Lagrangian features. The primarily dynamic mechanism is the along-shore wind forcing, which induces a coastal jet that tends to leave the coast and the bottom onshore and near surface offshore transports. The second one is the convergent coastal geometry and bottom topography for the southward flow in central shelf near Tampa Bay that enforces the coastal jet and the bottom and near surface transport. The last is a kinematic one, simply due to the short along-shore Lagrangian excursion, driven by the typical synoptic weather systems. Thus near surface shelf waters over the north may not reach the southern coast of the West Florida. Implication is that surface hazard such as oil spill that may occur outside of the southern West Florida shelf may not greatly impact the southern coastal region except Florida Keys. However, the biological and chemical patches over the north that may occur in the water column such as red tides still can easily reach the southern coastal region through the subsurface and bottom waters.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Continental Shelf Research, v. 19, issue 9, p. 1221-1245