High-Resolution Non-Hydrostatic Modeling of Frontal Features in the Mouth of the Columbia River


Airborne data measured during the recent RIVET II field experiment has revealed that horizontally distributed thermal fingers regularly occur at the Mouth of Columbia River (MCR) during strong ebb tidal flows. The high-resolution, non-hydrostatic coastal model, NHWAVE, predicts salinity anomalies on the water surface which are believed to be associated with the thermal fingers. Model results indicate that large amplitude recirculation are generated in the water column between an oblique internal hydraulic jump and the North Jetty. Simulation results indicate that the billows of higher density fluid have sufficiently large amplitudes to interrupt the water surface, causing the prominent features of stripes on the surface. The current field is modulated by the frontal structures, as indicated by the vorticity field calculated from both the numerical model and data measured by an interferometric synthetic aperture radar.

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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, Physical Oceanography Program (OCE-1334325, OCE-1435147 and OCE-1334641), and the Office of Naval Research, Littoral Geosciences and Optics Program (N00014-10-1-0188; N00014-15-1-2612) and (N00014-10-1-0932). Numerical simulations were performed on UD’s Community Cluster,, operated by UD IT group. The authors would like to acknowledge Mick Haller and David Honegger of the Oregon State University and Craig McNeil of the University of Washington for useful discussion and insight from their data, and Guy Gelfenhaum and the USGS for the detailed channel bathymetry in Fig. 1b.

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Correspondence to Fengyan Shi.

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Communicated by: David K. Ralston.

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Shi, F., Chickadel, C.C., Hsu, T. et al. High-Resolution Non-Hydrostatic Modeling of Frontal Features in the Mouth of the Columbia River. Estuaries and Coasts 40, 296–309 (2017) doi:10.1007/s12237-016-0132-y

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  • Mouth of Columbia River
  • Thermal fingers
  • Internal hydraulic jump
  • Non-hydrostatic modeling