Short Term Changes in the Vertical Salinity Distribution of the York River Estuary Associated with the Neap-Spring Tidal Cycle

  • Leonard W. Haas
  • Fredrick J. Holden
  • Christopher S. Welch
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Science and Society book series (CISS)


A multidisciplinary investigation of hydrographic-nutrient-phytoplankton interactions was undertaken in the lower York River estuary of Virginia during August, 1978. The study centered on a spring tide-associated water column destratification event predicted to occur on or soon after August 19, the date of the maximum monthly spring tide. A station in the lower York River (depth 19 m) was occupied during four different periods, August 7–10, 16–17, 21–24 and 28–30, and temperature and salinity were measured periodically at 1 m depth intervals. During August 16–20 salinities were measured through the water column at seven stations in the York River extending from the mouth to 35 km upriver. During the first two sampling periods the water column was moderately to strongly stratified. Destratification was first observed 15–20 km upriver on August 18 and the lower river was destratified by August 21. Destratification persisted in the lower river for four days at which time increasing bottom salinities indicated the beginning of the restratification process. By August 28 restratification, resulting primarily from an increase in bottom salinities, was complete. The results illustrate the highly dynamic hydrographic nature of this estuarine system and the predictability of the stratification-destratification sequence. The effects of this hydrographic cycle on nutrient distributions, phytoplankton dynamics and benthic nutrient fluxes in this estuary are discussed in accompanying papers.


Tidal Cycle Neap Tide Virginia Institute Slack Water Bottom Salinity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Allen, G.P., 1972. Etude des processus sedimentaires dans l’estuaire de la Gironde. Mem. Inst. Geol. Bassin Aquitaine 5: 314 pp.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Allen G.P., J.C., Salomon, P., Bassoullet, Y., Du Penhoat, and C. Del Grandpre’. 1980. Effects of tides on mixing and suspended sediment transport in macrotidal estuaries. Sediment. Geol. 26: 69–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bowden, K.F. and S.H. Sharafeldin, 1966. Circulation, salinity and river discharge in the Mersey estuary. Geophys. J. Royal Astron. Soc. 10: 383–399.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cannon, G.A. and N.P. Laird, 1978. Variability of currents and water properties from year long observations in a fjord estuary. 515–535. In: J.C.J. Nihoul (ed.). Hydrodynamics of estuaries and fjords. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    D’Elia, C.F., K.L. Webb and R.L. Wetzel. 1980. Impact of hydrographic events on water quality in an estuary, pp. 597–606. In: B.J. Neilson (ed.), International symposium on nutrient enrichment in estuaries. The Humana Press, Inc., Clifton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dyer, K.R. 1973. Estuaries: a physical introduction. J. Wiley & Sons, New York. 140 pp.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Haas, L.W. 1977. The effect of the spring-neap tidal cycle on the vertical salinity structure of the James, York and Rappahannock rivers, Virginia, U.S.A. Est. & Coast. Mar. Sci. 5: 485–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Haas, L.W., S.J. Hastings and K.L. Webb. 1980. Phytoplankton response to a tidally induced cycle of stratification and mixing in the York River estuary. In: B.J. Neilson (ed.) International symposium on nutrient enrichment in estuaries. The Humana Press Inc., Clifton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hansen, D.V. and M. Rattray Jr. 1966. New dimensions in estuary classification. Limnol. Oceanogr. 11: 319–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    McGowan, J.A. and T.L. Hayward. 1978. Mixing and oceanic productivity. Deep-Sea Res. 25: 771–794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Phoel, W.G., K.L. Webb and C.F. D’Elia. 1980. Inorganic nitrogen regeneration and total oxygen consumption by the sediments at the mouth of the York River, Virginia., U.S.A. pp. 607–615.In: B.J. Neilson (ed.). International symposium on nutrient enrichment in estuaries. The Humana Press, Inc., Clifton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Pritchard, D.W. 1967. Observations of circulation in coastal plain estuaries, 37–44. In: G.H. Lauff (ed.) Estuaries. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Publication 83.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Sinclair, M. 1978. Summer phytoplankton variability in the lower St. Lawrence estuary. J. Fish. Res. Bd. Can., 35: 1171–1185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Takahashi, M., D.L. Seibert and W.H. Thomas. 1977. Occasional blooms of phytoplankton during summer in Saanich Inlet, B.C., Canada. Deep-Sea Res. 24: 775–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wastler, T.A. and C.M. Walter. 1968. Statistical approach to estuarine behavior. J. Sanitary Engineering Division, A.S.C.E. SA6, Proc. Paper 6311: 1175–1194.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Webb, K.L. and C.F. D’Elia. 1980. Nutrient and oxygen redistribution during a spring neap tidal cycle in a temperate estuary. Science 207: 983–985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Winter, D.F., K. Banse and G.C. Anderson. 1975. The dynamics of phytoplankton blooms in Puget Sound, a fjord in the Northwestern United States. Mar. Biol. 29: 139–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Humana Press Inc. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard W. Haas
    • 1
  • Fredrick J. Holden
    • 1
  • Christopher S. Welch
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine Science and School of Marine ScienceCollege of William and MaryGloucester PointUSA

Personalised recommendations