Wanquan River is a small river located in Hainan, a tropical island in China. As the third largest river in Hainan, the river plume plays an important role in the regional terrigenous mass transport, coastal circulation, and the coral reef’s ecosystem. Studies have shown that wind forcings significantly influence river plume dynamics. In this study, wind effects on the dispersal of the river plume and freshwater transport were examined numerically using a calibrated, unstructured, finite volume numerical model (FVCOM). Both wind direction and magnitude were determined to influence plume dispersal. Northeasterly (downwelling-favorable) winds drove freshwater down-shelf while southeasterly (onshore) winds drove water up-shelf (in the sense of Kelvin wave propagation), and were confined near the coast. Southwesterly (upwelling-favorable) and north-westerly (offshore) winds transport more freshwater offshore. The transport flux is decomposed into an advection, a vertical shear, and an oscillatory component. The advection flux dominates the freshwater transport in the coastal area and the vertical shear flux is dominant in the offshore area. For the upwelling-favorable wind, the freshwater transport becomes more controlled by the advection transport with an increase in wind stress, due to enhanced vertical mixing. The relative importance of wind forcing and buoyancy force was investigated. It was found that, when the Wedderburn number is larger than one, the plume was dominated by wind forcing, although the importance of wind varies in different parts of the plume. The water column stratification decreased as a whole under the prevailing southwesterly wind, with the exception of the up-shelf and offshore areas.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Avicola G, Huq P (2003). The role of outflow geometry in the formation of the recirculating bulge region in coastal buoyant outflows. J Mar Res, 61(4): 411–434
Bourrin F, Friend P L, Amos C L, Manca E, Ulses C, Palanques A, Durrieu de Madron X, Thompson C E L (2008). Sediment dispersal from a typical Mediterranean flood: the Têt River, Gulf of Lions. Cont Shelf Res, 28(15): 1895–1910
Chao S Y (1988a). River-forced estuarine plumes. J Phys Oceanogr, 18(1): 72–88
Chao S Y (1988b). Wind-driven motion of estuarine plumes. J Phys Oceanogr, 18(8): 1144–1166
Chao S Y (1990). Tidal modulation of estuarine plumes. J Phys Oceanogr, 20(7): 1115–1123
Chen C S, Liu H D, Beardsley R C (2003). An unstructured grid, finitevolume, three-dimensional, primitive equations ocean model: application to coastal ocean and estuaries. J Atmos Ocean Technol, 20(1): 159–186
Chen C S, Xue P F, Ding P X, Beardsley R C, Xu Q C, Mao XM, Gao G P, Qi J H, Li C Y, Lin H C, Cowles G, Shi M C (2008). Physical mechanisms for the offshore detachment of the Changjiang diluted water in the East China Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 113(C2): C02002
Chen S N, Sanford L P (2009). Axial wind effects on stratification and longitudinal salt transport in an idealized, partially mixed estuary. J Phys Oceanogr, 39(8): 1905–1920
Choi B J, Wilkin J L (2007). The effect of wind on the dispersal of the Hudson River plume. J Phys Oceanogr, 37(7): 1878–1897
Dzwonkowski B, Park K, Collini R (2015). The coupled estuarine-shelf response of a river-dominated system during the transition from low to high discharge. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 120(9): 6145–6163
Egbert G D, Erofeeva S Y (2002). Efficient inverse modeling of Barotropic Ocean Tides. J Atmos Ocean Technol, 19(2): 183–204
Fong D A, Geyer W R (2001). Response of a river plume during an upwelling favorable wind event. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 106(C1): 1067–1084
Fong D A, Geyer W R (2002). The alongshore transport of freshwater in a surface-trapped river plume. J Phys Oceanogr, 32(3): 957–972
Fong D A, Geyer WR, Signell R P (1997). The wind-forced response on a buoyant coastal current: observations of the western Gulf of Maine plume. J Mar Syst, 12(1–4): 69–81
García-Berdeal I, Hickey B, Kawase M (2002). Influence of wind stress and ambient flow on a high discharge river plume. J Geophys Res, 107(C9): 3130
Garvine R W (1995). A dynamical system for classifying buoyant coastal discharges. Cont Shelf Res, 15(13): 1585–1596
Garvine R W (1999). Penetration of buoyant coastal discharge onto the continental shelf: a numerical model experiment. J Phys Oceanogr, 29(8): 1892–1909
Gaston T F, Schlacher T A, Connolly R M (2006). Flood discharges of a small river into open coastal waters: plume traits and material fate. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci, 69(1–2): 4–9
Ge J Z, Ding P X, Chen C S (2015). Low-salinity plume detachment under non-uniform summer wind off the Changjiang Estuary. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci, 156: 61–70
Geyer W R (1997). Influence of wind on dynamics and flushing of shallow estuaries. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci, 44(6): 713–722
Geyer WR, Hill P, Milligan T, Traykovski P (2000). The structure of the Eel River plume during floods. Cont Shelf Res, 20(16): 2067–2093
Geyer W R, Hill P S, Kineke G C (2004). The transport, transformation and dispersal of sediment by buoyant coastal flows. Cont Shelf Res, 24(7–8): 927–949
Guo X Y, Valle-Levinson A (2007). Tidal effects on estuarine circulation and outflow plume in the Chesapeake Bay. Cont Shelf Res, 27(1): 20–42
Hetland R D (2005). Relating river plume structure to vertical mixing. J Phys Oceanogr, 35(9): 1667–1688
Horner-Devine A R, Fong D A, Monismith S G, Maxworthy T (2006). Laboratory experiments simulating a coastal river inflow. J Fluid Mech, 555: 203–232
Huq P (2009). The role of Kelvin number on Bulge formation from estuarine buoyant outflows. Estuaries Coasts, 32(4): 709–719
Isobe A (2005). Ballooning of river-plume bulge and its stabilization by tidal currents. J Phys Oceanogr, 35(12): 2337–2351
Johnson D, Weidemann A, Arnone R, Davis C (2001). Chesapeake Bay outflow plume and coastal upwelling events: physical and optical properties. J Geophys Res, 106(C6): 11613–11622
Jurisa J T, Chant R (2012). The coupled Hudson River estuarine-plume response to variable wind and river forcings. Ocean Dyn, 62(5): 771–784
Jurisa J T, Chant R J (2013). Impact of offshore winds on a buoyant river plume system. J Phys Oceanogr, 43(12): 2571–2587
Large W, Pond S (1981). Open ocean momentum flux measurements in moderate to strong winds. J Phys Oceanogr, 11(3): 324–336
Lentz S J, Largier J (2006). The influence of wind forcing on the Chesapeake Bay buoyant coastal current. J Phys Oceanogr, 36(7): 1305–1316
Li Y, Li M (2011). Effects of winds on stratification and circulation in a partially mixed estuary. J Geophys Res, 116(C12): 12012
Moffat C, Lentz S (2012). On the response of a buoyant plume to downwelling-favorable wind stress. J Phys Oceanogr, 42(7): 1083–1098
Nof D, Pichevin T (2001). The ballooning of outflows. J Phys Oceanogr, 31(10): 3045–3058
Ostrander C E, Mc Manus M A, De Carlo E H, Mackenzie F T (2008). Temporal and spatial variability of freshwater plumes in a semienclosed estuarine–bay system. Estuaries Coasts, 31(1): 192–203
Pan J Y, Gu Y Z, Wang D X (2014). Observations and numerical modeling of the Pearl River plume in summer season. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 119(4): 2480–2500
Piñones A, Valle-Levinson A, Narváez D A, Vargas C A, Navarrete S A, Yuras G, Castilla J C (2005). Wind-induced diurnal variability in river plume motion. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci, 65(3): 513–525
Rabalais N N, Turner R E, Wiseman W J (2002). Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, aka “The dead zone”. Annu Rev Ecol Syst, 33(1): 235–263
Ralston D K, Geyer W R, Lerczak J A (2010). Structure, variability, and salt flux in a strongly forced salt wedge estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 115(C6):160–164
Rennie S E, Largier J L, Lentz S J (1999). Observations of a pulsed buoyancy current downstream of Chesapeake Bay. J Geophys Res, 104(C8): 18227–18240
Saha S, Moorthi S, Wu X, Wang J, Nadiga S, Tripp P, Behringer D, Hou Y T, Chuang H y, Iredell M, Ek M, Meng J, Yang R, Mendez M P, van den Dool H, Zhang Q, Wang W, Chen M, Becker E (2014). The NCEP Climate Forecast System Version 2. J Clim, 27(6): 2185–2208
Sanders T M, Garvine R W (2001). Fresh water delivery to the continental shelf and subsequent mixing: an observational study. J Geophys Res, 106(C11): 27087–27101
Shu Y Q, Chen J, Yao J L, Pan J Y, Wang W W, Mao H B, Wang D X (2014). Effects of the Pearl River plume on the vertical structure of coastal currents in the Northern South China Sea during summer 2008. Ocean Dyn, 64(12): 1743–1752
Shu Y Q, Wang D X, Zhu J A, Peng S Q (2011). The 4-D structure of upwelling and Pearl River plume in the northern South China Sea during summer 2008 revealed by a data assimilation model. Ocean Model, 36(3–4): 228–241
Simpson J (1997). Physical processes in the ROFI regime. J Mar Syst, 12(1): 3–15
Simpson J H, Crisp D J, Hearn C (1981). The shelf-sea fronts: implications of their existence and behaviour. Philos Trans R Soc Lond A, 302(1472): 531–546 (and Discussion)
Tarya A, Hoitink A J F, Van der Vegt M (2010). Tidal and subtidal flow patterns on a tropical continental shelf semi-insulated by coral reefs. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 115(C9): C09029
Tarya A, van der Vegt M, Hoitink A J F (2015).Wind forcing controls on river plume spreading on a tropical continental shelf. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 120(1): 16–35
Vic C, Berger H, Treguier A M, Couvelard X (2014). Dynamics of an equatorial river plume: theory and numerical experiments applied to the congo plume case. J Phys Oceanogr, 44(3): 980–994
Wang J H, Shen Y M, Guo Y K (2010). Seasonal circulation and influence factors of the Bohai Sea: a numerical study based on Lagrangian particle tracking method. Ocean Dyn, 60(6): 1581–1596
Warner J C, Geyer W R, Lerczak J A (2005). Numerical modeling of an estuary: a comprehensive skill assessment. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 110(C5): C05001
Warrick J A, Di Giacomo P M, Weisberg S B, Nezlin N P, Mengel M, Jones B H, Ohlmann J C, Washburn L, Terrill E J, Farnsworth K L (2007). River plume patterns and dynamics within the Southern California Bight. Cont Shelf Res, 27(19): 2427–2448
Whitehead J A (1985). The deflection of a baroclinic jet by a wall in a rotating fluid. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 157: 79–93
Whitney M M, Garvine R W (2005). Wind influence on a coastal buoyant outflow. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 110(C3): C03014
Whitney M M, Garvine R W (2006). Simulating the Delaware Bay buoyant outflow: comparison with observations. J Phys Oceanogr, 36(1): 3–21
Wu H, Zhu J R, Shen J, Wang H (2011). Tidal modulation on the Changjiang River plume in summer. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 116: C08017
Xia M, Xie L, Pietrafesa L J, Whitney MM (2011). The ideal response of a Gulf of Mexico estuary plume to wind forcing: its connection with salt flux and a Lagrangian view. J Geophys Res, 116(C8): C08035
Yankovsky A E, Hickey B M, Munchow A K (2001). Impact of variable inflow on the dynamics of a coastal buoyant plume. J Geophys Res, 106(19): 809–819, 824
Yin K, Harrison P J, Pond S, Beamish R J (1995). Entrainment of nitrate in the Fraser River Estuary and its biological implications. II. Effects of spring vs. neap tides and river discharge. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci, 40(5): 529–544
Zhang H, Sheng J Y (2013). Estimation of extreme sea levels over the eastern continental shelf of North America. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 118(11): 6253–6273
This study is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 40976052). This research is supported in part by Special Program for Applied Research on Super Computation of the NSFC-Guangdong Joint Fund (the second phase). The authors would like to acknowledge Mr. Mac Sisson of Virginia Institute of Marine Science for his help in editing the manuscript. We are also grateful for the three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript.
Junpeng Zhao is a Ph.D candidate in Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China. He received his Bachelor’s Degree at Henan University in 2009, and his Master’s Degree in physical oceanography in 2011 at Sun Yat-Sen University.
His major field of study is estuarine circulation, salt intrusion in estuaries, and river plume dynamics.
Wenping Gong is a professor in the School of Marine Science, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China. He received his Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in natural geography in 1990 and 1993 at Nanjing University, respectively. He was awarded his Ph.D. degree in physical geography in 1997 at East China Normal University, Shanghai.
He worked in the Department of Civil Engineering, the University of Liverpool, from 2000–2001, followed by a position at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia, USA from 2003–2008. His research interests are estuarine and coastal hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics, and water quality.
Jian Shen is a Professor of physical oceanography in Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia, USA. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Shanghai Normal University, and his Master’s and Ph. D. degrees inform the College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA.
He worked as a visiting scientist in The Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, The Netherlands from 1986–1987, followed by a position as a Senior Environment Engineer at Tetra Tech, Inc. after he completed his Ph.D. studies. He then returned to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science for further academic research. His research interests include: estuarine circulation, inverse modeling of estuarine water quality, storm surge and inundation predictions; numerical model simulations of hydrodynamics and water quality in estuaries and coastal sea; and numerical modeling of watershed processes.
About this article
Cite this article
Zhao, J., Gong, W. & Shen, J. The effect of wind on the dispersal of a tropical small river plume. Front. Earth Sci. 12, 170–190 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11707-016-0628-6
- small river plume
- wind effect
- freshwater transport