Wind- and Tide-Driven Cross-Inlet Circulation at New River Inlet, NC

Monday, 15 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Anna Wargula, Britt Raubenheimer and Steve Elgar, WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States
The importance of cross-channel wind forcing to inlet circulation is examined using observations of winds, waves, water levels, and currents collected in and near New River Inlet, NC during May 2012. Although the direct effect of local wind forcing may be neglected in the subtidal along-inlet momentum balance, which is dominated by the pressure gradient, wave radiation stress gradient, and bottom friction, cross-inlet winds may have a significant effect on along-inlet dynamics by driving cross-inlet flows (approximately 0.1 to 0.3 m/s), which can mix lateral and vertical gradients in momentum and water properties.

New River Inlet is 1000 m wide at the mouth and tapers to 100 m wide about 1000 m away from the mouth after two sharp 90° bends. Five colocated pressure gages and current profilers were deployed from the shallow (2-3 m water depth) ebb shoal outside the mouth through the deep (5-10 m depth) inlet channel to 200 m beyond the first 90° bend. The inlet is well mixed, and along-inlet tidal currents ranged from +/- 1.5 m/s, offshore significant wave heights from 0.5 to 2.5 m, and wind speeds from 0 to 16 m/s.

Time series of currents and winds were lowpass-filtered to examine subtidal wind effects. At the first 90° bend, both surface and bottom cross-inlet flows were correlated (r2 = 0.6) with cross-inlet wind velocity. On the shallow ebb shoal, the cross-inlet flows also were correlated with cross-inlet wind velocity (r= 0.6). Cross-inlet flows exhibited a two-layer response to the wind inside the inlet and a depth-uniform response outside the mouth. The observations will be used to examine the momentum balance governing temporal and spatial variations in cross-inlet wind effects on inlet circulation.

Funding provided by the Office of Naval Research, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.