Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 60, Issue 6, pp 1621–1637 | Cite as

Multi-scale modeling of Puget Sound using an unstructured-grid coastal ocean model: from tide flats to estuaries and coastal waters

  • Zhaoqing Yang
  • Tarang Khangaonkar


Water circulation in Puget Sound, a large complex estuary system in the Pacific Northwest coastal ocean of the United States, is governed by multiple spatially and temporally varying forcings from tides, atmosphere (wind, heating/cooling, precipitation/evaporation, pressure), and river inflows. In addition, the hydrodynamic response is affected strongly by geomorphic features, such as fjord-like bathymetry and complex shoreline features, resulting in many distinguishing characteristics in its main and sub-basins. To better understand the details of circulation features in Puget Sound and to assist with proposed nearshore restoration actions for improving water quality and the ecological health of Puget Sound, a high-resolution (around 50 m in estuaries and tide flats) hydrodynamic model for the entire Puget Sound was needed. Here, a three-dimensional circulation model of Puget Sound using an unstructured-grid finite volume coastal ocean model is presented. The model was constructed with sufficient resolution in the nearshore region to address the complex coastline, multi-tidal channels, and tide flats. Model open boundaries were extended to the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the northern end of the Strait of Georgia to account for the influences of ocean water intrusion from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Fraser River plume from the Strait of Georgia, respectively. Comparisons of model results, observed data, and associated error statistics for tidal elevation, velocity, temperature, and salinity indicate that the model is capable of simulating the general circulation patterns on the scale of a large estuarine system as well as detailed hydrodynamics in the nearshore tide flats. Tidal characteristics, temperature/salinity stratification, mean circulation, and river plumes in estuaries with tide flats are discussed.


Puget Sound Numerical model Tides Estuarine circulation Stratification Tide flat 



This study is primarily funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development grants of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and subsequently partially supported by various funding sources, including a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program. The authors thank Dr. Taiping Wang for assisting with harmonic analysis and error assessment of the model results and figures.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Battelle Seattle Research CenterSeattleUSA

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