Observations of tidal boundary layers in the Great Bay Estuary

Observations of the vertical structure of tidal flows obtained in 2016 and 2017 in the Great Bay Estuary, NH show evidence of transitional tidal boundary layers at deployment locations on shallow mudflats. High-resolution bottom boundary layer currents, hydrography, turbidity, and bed characteristics were observed with an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP), an acoustic Doppler velocimeter (ADV), conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) sensors, optical backscatter sensors, multibeam bathymetric surveys, and sediment grab samples and cores. Over the 2.5 m tidal range and at water depths ranging from 0.3 m to 1.5 m at mean lower low water, peak flows ranged from 10 cm/s to 30 cm/s and were primarily driven by the tides.  A downward-looking ADCP captured the velocity profile over the lowest 1 m of the water column.  Results consistently show a dual-log layer system, with evidence of a lower layer within 15 cm of the bed, another layer above approximately 30 cm from the bed, and a transitional region where the flow field rotates between that the two layers that can be as much as 180 degrees out of phase. CTD casts collected over a complete tidal cycle suggest that the weak thermohaline stratification is not responsible for development of the two layers.  Future work includes an effort to quantify the impact of rotation and dual-log layers on bed stress and the subsequent nutrient flux.

Faculty Advisors:  Diane Foster, Tom Lippmann

For more information contact:  Kara Koetje