Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 205–221 | Cite as

Baroclinic tidal flows and inundation processes in Cook Inlet, Alaska: numerical modeling and satellite observations

  • Lie-Yauw Oey
  • Tal EzerEmail author
  • Chuanmin Hu
  • Frank E. Muller-Karger
Original paper


A wetting and drying (WAD) algorithm is implemented in a baroclinic three-dimensional ocean circulation model of Cook Inlet, Alaska, where large tidal ranges (≈10 m) regularly expose extensive mudflats. The model includes tides and wind- and buoyancy-induced flows. In the upper Inlet, the model successfully simulates large amplification of tides and propagation of fast (3 ∼ 4 m s−1) tidal bores over shallow mudflats. The simulated return flows during ebb expose large areas (∼100 km2) of the mudflats. Medium-resolution (250- and 500-m) images obtained from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites were used to verify the model results by identifying the location, extent, and temporal changes of the exposed mudflat regions. The results demonstrate the value of operational, medium-resolution remote sensing data in evaluating the WAD model. Sensitivity tests show that WAD produces approximately 20% larger tidal amplitude and 10% slower phase than the corresponding experiment without WAD. In the deep channel of the central Inlet, the confluence of saline water of the lower Inlet with brackish water from rivers and melting ice from land around the upper Inlet produces a salinity front. At the simulated front, strong vertical circulation cells and surface convergence and currents develop, especially during the flood. The characteristics resemble those of “rip tides” often observed in this region.


Numerical model Tides Inundation Satellite data MODIS Alaska 



The study was supported by the Mineral Management Service (Contract no. 1435-01-03-CT-72021); Oey and Ezer were also partly supported by Office of Naval Research (ONR) grants; Hu and Muller-Karger were supported by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grants. The NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) provided computational resources.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lie-Yauw Oey
    • 1
  • Tal Ezer
    • 2
    Email author
  • Chuanmin Hu
    • 3
  • Frank E. Muller-Karger
    • 3
  1. 1.Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ocean Earth and Atmospheric SciencesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Marine Remote Sensing, College of Marine ScienceUniversity of South FloridaSt. PetersburgUSA

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