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Title: Using Tracer Variance Decay to Quantify Variability of Salinity Mixing in the Hudson River Estuary

The salinity structure in an estuary is controlled by time‐dependent mixing processes. However, the locations and temporal variability of where significant mixing occurs is not well‐understood. Here we utilize a tracer variance approach to demonstrate the spatial and temporal structure of salinity mixing in the Hudson River Estuary. We run a 4‐month hydrodynamic simulation of the tides, currents, and salinity that captures the spring‐neap tidal variability as well as wind‐driven and freshwater flow events. On a spring‐neap time scale, salinity variance dissipation (mixing) occurs predominantly during the transition from neap to spring tides. On a tidal time scale, 60% of the salinity variance dissipation occurs during ebb tides and 40% during flood tides. Spatially, mixing during ebbs occurs primarily where lateral bottom salinity fronts intersect the bed at the transition from the main channel to adjacent shoals. During ebbs, these lateral fronts form seaward of constrictions located at multiple locations along the estuary. During floods, mixing is generated by a shear layer elevated in the water column at the top of the mixed bottom boundary layer, where variations in the along channel density gradients locally enhance the baroclinic pressure gradient leading to stronger vertical shear and more mixing. For both ebb and flood, the mixing occurs at the location of overlap of strong vertical stratification and eddy diffusivity, not at the maximum of either of those quantities. This understanding lends a new insight to the spatial and time dependence of the estuarine salinity structure.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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