Marine Science Faculty Publications

A Numerical Simulation of Residual Circulation in Tampa Bay. Part I: Low-frequency Temporal Variations

Document Type


Publication Date



Root Mean Square, Wind Stress, Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, Freshwater Inflow, Surface Wind Stress

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


The residual (time-average) salinity and circulation in a numerical ocean model of the Tampa Bay estuary are shown to experience significant temporal variation under realistic forcing conditions. A version of the Estuarine Coastal Ocean Model developed for Tampa Bay with 70 by 100 horizontal grid points and 11 sigma levels is examined for the years 2001–2003. Model output variables are averaged over the entire time of the simulation to generate long-term residual fields. The residual axial current is found to be dominated by the buoyancy-driven baroclinic circulation with an outflow (southwestward) at the surface and to the sides of the shipping channel, and an inflow (northeastward) usually occurring subsurface within or above the shipping channel. Averages over 30 d are used to examine variations in the residual fields. During the simulation the average surface salinity near the head of Tampa Bay varies with the freshwater inflow, from 12‰ to 33%. At the bay mouth salinity varies from 30%. to 36%.. A localized measure of the baroclinic circulation in the shipping channel indicates the residual circulation can vary strongly, attaining a magnitude triple the long-term mean value. The baroclinic circulation can be disrupted, going to near zero or even reversing, when the buoyancy-driven flow is weak and the surface winds are to the northeast. Three time periods, representing different environmental conditions, are chosen to examine these results in detail. A scaling argument indicates the relative strength of buoyancy versus wind as ΔρgH2(LC Dω2)−1, where δρ is head-to-mouth density difference across the bay,g is gravitational acceleration,H is depth,L is bay length,C D is the surface wind drag coefficient, andw is wind speed. Tampa Bay is usually in the buoyancy dominated regime. The importance of winds in the weak-buoyancy case is demonstrated in an additional simulation without wind stress.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Estuaries and Coasts, v. 30, issue 4, p. 679-697