Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 63, Issue 11–12, pp 1307–1320 | Cite as

High-resolution modelling of a large-scale river plume

  • Vasiliy VlasenkoEmail author
  • Nataliya Stashchuk
  • Robert McEwan
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


Evolution of a large-scale river plume is studied numerically using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model. The model parameters were set close to those observed in the area of the Columbia River mouth. The fine-resolution grid along with the non-hydrostatic dispersion included in the model allowed for the reproduction of detailed inner plume structure, as well as a system of internal waves radiated from the plume’s boundary. It was found that not only first-mode but also second- and third-mode internal waves are radiated from the plume at the latest stages of its relaxation when the velocity of the front propagation drops below an appropriate wave phase speed of internal baroclinic mode. The model output shows that the amplitude of these high-mode waves is of the same order as the leading first-mode waves, which in combination with the specific vertical structure (location of the maximum structure function beyond the pycnocline layer) creates favourable conditions for the generation of shear instabilities. High-resolution model output also reveals evidence of a fine internal structure of the plume characterized by the presence of secondary fronts inside the plume and secondary internal wave systems propagated radially from the lift-off area to the outer boundary. These structures intensify the mixing processes within the propagating plume with predominance of the entrainment mechanism developing on the lower boundary between the plume’s body and underlying waters. The scheme of horizontal circulation in the plume was reproduced by the methodology of Lagrange drifters released near the mouth at different depths.


River plume Numerical model Internal waves 



Thanks to Plymouth University’s Marine Institute which supported this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vasiliy Vlasenko
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nataliya Stashchuk
    • 1
  • Robert McEwan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Marine Science and EngineeringUniversity of Plymouth, Drake CircusPlymouthUK

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