, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 945-958

Circulation in Carr Inlet, Puget Sound, during Spring 2003

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Abstract

The relatively slow flow and exchange of Carr Inlet water with the main basin of Puget Sound, Washington, favor eutrophication. To study Carr Inlet’s circulation, the Model-measurement Integration Experiment in Estuary Dynamics (MIXED) was conducted in March–May 2003, spanning the spring bloom. From observations and numerical simulations the circulation was decomposed into tidal and subtidal components; the former was dominated by the M2 tide, the latter by atmospheric forcing. Near the surface, the subtidal velocity was correlated with wind. At mid depths, the subtidal velocity was organized into vertical bands arising from internal waves excited by wind forcing of the water surface. The tidal flow was more strongly steered by local bathymetry and weaker in peak magnitudes than the subtidal flow, yet it contributed more mechanical energy to the inlet. Tidal eddies reduce exchange of water through the inlet’s entrances. Numerical simulations with the Princeton Ocean Model recreated many observed features, including the three-layer vertical structure of outflow at the surface and bottom and inflow at mid depth, the mid-depth subtidal response to the wind, and characteristics of the tide. While the model produced greater subtidal flow magnitudes at depth and differences in the phase of the M2 tide compared to observations, overall the case study provided support for more comprehensive simulations of Puget Sound in the future.