Alteration of Residual Circulation Due to Large-Scale Infrastructure in a Coastal Plain Estuary

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Estuary, Residual circulation, Bathymetry, Fluid–structure interaction Infrastructure, Exchange flow

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Large-scale human-built infrastructure is shown to alter the salinity and subtidal residual flow in a realistic numerical simulation of hydrodynamic circulation in a coastal plain estuary (Tampa Bay). Two model scenarios are considered. The first uses a modern bathymetry and boundary conditions from the years 2001–2003. The second is identical to the first except that the bathymetry is based on depth soundings from the pre-construction year 1879. Differences between the models' output can only result from changes in bay morphology, in particular built infrastructure such as bridges, causeways, and dredging of the shipping channel. Thirty-day means of model output are calculated to remove the dominant tidal signals and allow examination of the subtidal dynamics. Infrastructure is found to steepen the mean axial salinity gradient ∂s¯¯¯/dx by ~40% when there is low freshwater input but flatten ∂s¯¯¯/dx by ~25% under more typical conditions during moderate freshwater inflow to the estuary. Deepening of the shipping channel also increases the magnitude of the residual Eulerian circulation, allowing for larger up-estuary salt transport. Local bathymetry and morphology are important. Some regions within the estuary show little change in residual circulation due to infrastructure. In others, the residual circulation can vary by a factor of 4 or more. Major features of the circulation and changes due to infrastructure can be partially accounted for with linear theory.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Estuaries and Coasts, v. 37, issue 2, p. 493-507