Wave and Wind Effects on Inlet Circulation

Monday, 15 December 2014: 1:40 PM
Britt Raubenheimer, Anna Wargula, Mara Morgenstern Orescanin, Julia Hopkins and Steve Elgar, WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States
Observations and numerical simulations of the water circulation and morphological change in two separate, well-mixed inlets will be compared with each other. Tides, winds, waves, and currents were measured from May 1 to 28, 2012 in and near New River Inlet, NC. Offshore significant wave heights were 0 to 3 m, and wind speeds ranged from 0 to 16 m/s. The long, narrow inlet is about 1000 m wide where it opens onto the ebb shoal, narrows to 100 m wide about 1000 m inland, and connects to the Intracoastal Waterway (which connects to additional ocean inlets about 12 and 36 km north and south, respectively) about 3000 m inland. Tides in the inlet are progressive and inlet flows are in phase with water depths. Measurements also were collected during the summers of 2011-2014, including during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy (offshore significant wave heights > 5 m and winds > 15 m/s), in Katama Bay, MA, which connects to Vineyard Sound via Edgartown Channel and to the Atlantic Ocean via Katama Inlet. During this period, Katama Inlet migrated east about 1000 m, narrowed from 400 to 100 m wide, changed depth from 7 to 2 m, and lengthened from 200 to 1000 m. Tidal flows in Katama Inlet are forced by sea level gradients resulting from the 3-hr phase lag between tides in Vineyard Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Analyses of the momentum balances suggest that waves drive flows into the mouths of the inlets during storms. The timing of the storms relative to ebb and flood, and wind effects, may affect the discharge and sediment transport through the inlet. Winds and waves also drive alongshore flows on the ebb shoals. Lateral flows at bends in New River Inlet, which may be important to the along-inlet transfer of momentum and to mixing, are affected by winds. The importance of connections to additional inlets in multi-inlet systems will be discussed.

Funded by ONR, ASD(R&E), NSF, Sea Grant, and NDSEG.