Simulating hydrodynamics on tidal mudflats

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Salme Cook1 and Thomas Charles Lippmann1,2, (1)University of New Hampshire Main Campus, Durham, NH, United States, (2)University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States
Biogeochemical cycling in estuaries is governed by fluxes from both riverine sources and through estuarine sediment deposits. Although estimates from river sources are relatively common and easily sampled, estimates of nutrient fluxes through the fluid-sediment interface are less common and limited to deeper portions of the bays away from intertidal areas. Lack of quantifiable shear stress estimates over intertidal areas limits our overall understanding of nutrient budgets in estuaries. Unfortunately, observation of intertidal hydrodynamics and nutrient fluxes over tidal flats and near the water’s edge is difficult owing to the temporally varying and spatially extensive region where the tides inundate, and thus numerical modeling is often employed. In this work, the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS), a three dimensional numerical hydrodynamic model was used to investigate the shear stresses over intertidal mudflats in the Great Bay, a tidally-dominated New England estuary cut by several tidal channels and with over 50% of the estuary exposed at low tide. The ROMS wetting and drying scheme was used to simulate the rising and falling tide on the flats, a successful approach adapted in other regions of the world but not always inclusive of tidal channels. Bathymetric data obtained in 2009 and 2013 was used to define the model grid. Predicted tides are forced at Adam’s Pt., a natural constriction in the estuary about 20 km upstream of the mouth and at the entrance to the Great Bay. Of particular interest are fluxes of material on-to and off-of the tidal flats which contribute to water quality conditions in the estuary, and are largely governed by shear stresses that drive nutrient fluxes at the fluid-sediment interface. Basin wide estimates of near-bottom shear stresses can be used to estimate first order nutrient fluxes over a tidal cycle and hence describe general biogeochemical dynamics of the estuary. Future work will include enhanced forcing of currents by winds and wave processes at the shallow edges of the estuary. This research was supported by UNH College of Engineering and Physical Sciences fellowship and ONR.