Variability of the internal tide on the southern Monterey Bay continental shelf and associated bottom boundary layer sediment transport

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Kurt J Rosenberger, USGS, Coastal and Marine Geology, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, Curt Daron Storlazzi, USGS Pacific Science Ctr, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, Olivia M Cheriton, USGS California Water Science Center Menlo Park, Menlo Park, CA, United States and Erika E McPhee-Shaw, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, United States
A 6-month deployment of instrumentation from April to October 2012 in 90 m water depth near the outer edge of the mid-shelf mud belt in southern Monterey Bay, California, reveals the relative importance of internal tides on the resuspension and transport of seabed sediment. Observations consisted of time-series measurements of water-column currents, temperature and salinity, and near-bed currents and suspended matter. The internal tide accounted for 15-25% of the water-column current variance and the barotropic tide accounted for up to 35%. The subtidal flow showed remarkably little shear and was dominated by the 7-14 day band, which is associated with relaxations in the dominant equatorward winds typical of coastal California in the spring and summer. Upwelling and relaxation events resulted in strong near-bed flows and accounted for almost half of the current stress on the seafloor (not accounting for wave orbital velocities), and may have driven along-shelf geostrophic flow during steady state conditions. Several elevated suspended particulate matter (SPM) events occurred within 3 m of the bed and were generally associated with higher, long-period surface waves. However, these peaks in SPM did not coincide with the predicted resuspension events from the modeled combined wave-current shear stress, indicating that the observed SPM at our site was most likely resuspended elsewhere and advected along-isobath. Sediment flux is almost equal in magnitude in the alongshore and cross-shore directions. Instances of wave-current shear stress that exceeded the threshold of resuspension for the silty-clays common at these water depths only occurred when near-bed orbital velocities due to long-period surface waves coincided with vigorous near-bed currents associated with the internal tide or upwelling/relaxation events. Thus, the internal tide and upwelling/relaxation dynamics are important in the transport of sediment during the relatively quiescent summer months.