Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 117–142 | Cite as

Modelling study of three-dimensional circulation and particle movement over the Sable Gully of Nova Scotia

  • Shiliang Shan
  • Jinyu Sheng
  • Blair John William Greenan
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on the 16th biennial workshop of the Joint Numerical Sea Modelling Group (JONSMOD) in Brest, France 21-23 May 2012


The Sable Gully is a broad deep underwater canyon located to the east of Sable Island on the edge of the Scotian Shelf. Being the home of many marine species including the endangered Northern Bottlenose Whale, the Gully was designated as a marine protected area (MPA) in 2004. Better understanding of physical environmental conditions over this MPA is needed for sustainable ecosystem management. In this study, a multi-nested ocean circulation model and a particle tracking model are used to examine the three-dimensional (3D) circulation and movement of particles carried passively by the flow over the Sable Gully. The 3D circulation model is driven by tides, wind, and surface heat/freshwater fluxes. The model performance is assessed by comparing the results with the previous numerical tidal results and current meter observations made in the Gully. The simulated tidal circulation over the Gully and adjacent waters is relatively strong on shallow banks and relatively weak on the continental slope. Below the depth of the Gully rim ( ∼ 200 m), the tidal currents are constrained by the thalweg of the Gully and amplified toward the Gully head. The simulated subtidal circulation in the Gully has a complex spatial structure and significant seasonal variability. The simulated time-dependent 3D flow fields are then used in a particle tracking model to study the particle movements, downstream and upstream areas, and residence time of the Gully. Based on the movements of particles released at the depth of the Gully rim and tracked forward in time, the e-folding residence time is estimated to be about 7 and 13 days in February and August 2006, respectively. The Gully flanks are identified as high retention areas with the typical residence time of 10 and 20 days in February and August 2006, respectively. Tracking particles with and without tides reveals that tidal circulation reduces the value of residence time in the Gully, particularly along the Gully flanks.


Sable Gully Shelf edge dynamics Submarine canyon Numerical modelling Particle tracking 



We would like to thank the Canadian Hydrographic Service at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography for providing the high resolution multibeam bathymetry of the Sable Gully. Comments from two anonymous reviewers led to significant improvements in the manuscript. We also benefited from discussions with Keith Thompson and Kyoko Ohashi on particle tracking. This research was supported by funding from the Ocean Tracking Network Canada (OTN), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF). The LRF invests in science, engineering and technology for public benefit, worldwide. S. Shan was also supported by the Killam Predoctoral Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shiliang Shan
    • 1
  • Jinyu Sheng
    • 1
  • Blair John William Greenan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ocean and Ecosystem Sciences DivisionBedford Institute of OceanographyDartmouthCanada

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