Marine Science Faculty Publications

Synoptic Volumetric Variations and Flushing of the Tampa Bay Estuary

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Estuary, Synoptic variability, Tampa Bay ENSO, Wavelet, Seasonal variability

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Two types of analyses are used to investigate the synoptic wind-driven flushing of Tampa Bay in response to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle from 1950 to 2007. Hourly sea level elevations from the St. Petersburg tide gauge, and wind speed and direction from three different sites around Tampa Bay are used for the study. The zonal (u) and meridional (v) wind components are rotated clockwise by 40° to obtain axial and co-axial components according to the layout of the bay. First, we use the subtidal observed water level as a proxy for mean tidal height to estimate the rate of volumetric bay outflow. Second, we use wavelet analysis to bandpass sea level and wind data in the time–frequency domain to isolate the synoptic sea level and surface wind variance. For both analyses the long-term monthly climatology is removed and we focus on the volumetric and wavelet variance anomalies. The overall correlation between the Oceanic Niño Index and volumetric analysis is small due to the seasonal dependence of the ENSO response. The mean monthly climatology between the synoptic wavelet variance of elevation and axial winds are in close agreement. During the winter, El Niño (La Niña) increases (decreases) the synoptic variability, but decreases (increases) it during the summer. The difference in winter El Niño/La Niña wavelet variances is about 20 % of the climatological value, meaning that ENSO can swing the synoptic flushing of the bay by 0.22 bay volumes per month. These changes in circulation associated with synoptic variability have the potential to impact mixing and transport within the bay.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Climate Dynamics, v. 42, issue 5-6, p. 1587-1594