Modeling studies of the coastal circulation off northern California : statistics and patterns of wintertime flow Public Deposited

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  • We conduct modeling studies of the coastal circulation off northern California in the vicinity of the Eel River (40.6 degreesN, the site of the 1995-2000 Strata Formation on Margins (STRATAFORM) marine geology observational program) using a series of nested hydrostatic primitive equation models to aid in the understanding of the shelf flow field that receives and transports sediments during the winter floods. The basic objectives of our numerical studies are to model the continental shelf and slope flow and to understand the dominant dynamical processes. We simulate the shelf and slope flow surrounding Cape Mendocino during 100 days in winter 1996-1997 using a 3 km resolution model embedded in a 9 km resolution regional model of the North Pacific Ocean (the Naval Research Laboratory's Pacific West Coast (PWC) model). The validity of the model simulations is assessed by comparison with current measurements from a STRATAFORM shelf tripod outfitted with an acoustic Doppler current profiler and with satellite altimetry. Good agreement is found between the amplitude and time variability of the 3 km resolution modeled and observed alongshore currents on the shelf. The 3 km resolution model outperforms the 9 km resolution PWC model. Using statistical maps of flow variables., strong alongshore variability in wintertime flow is documented. The role of the forcing supplied by wind and river runoff in establishing this flow asymmetry between regions north and south of Cape Mendocino is examined using empirical orthogonal functions. The evolution of a robust anticyclonic eddy over the shelf and slope adjacent to Cape Mendocino is described. The eddy forms when strong poleward winds weaken and reverse direction during winter storms. The important role of alongshore pressure gradients in the shelf circulation is documented.
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  • Pullen, J., Allen, J. S., (2001). Modeling studies of the coastal circulation off northern California : statistics and patterns of wintertime flow. J. Geophys. Res. 106, C11, 26959-26984.
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