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Response of the lower St. Lawrence Estuary to external forcing in winter

Smith, G. C., Saucier, F. J. and Straub, D. (2006) Response of the lower St. Lawrence Estuary to external forcing in winter. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 36 (8). pp. 1485-1501. ISSN 0022-3670

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Mostly because of a lack of observations, fundamental aspects of the St. Lawrence Estuary's wintertime response to forcing remain poorly understood. The results of a field campaign over the winter of 2002/03 in the estuary are presented. The response of the system to tidal forcing is assessed through the use of harmonic analyses of temperature, salinity, sea level, and current observations. The analyses confirm previous evidence for the presence of semidiurnal internal tides, albeit at greater depths than previously observed for ice-free months. The low-frequency tidal streams were found to be mostly baroclinic in character and to produce an important neap tide intensification of the estuarine circulation. Despite stronger atmospheric momentum forcing in winter, the response is found to be less coherent with the winds than seen in previous studies of ice-free months. The tidal residuals show the cold intermediate layer in the estuary is renewed rapidly ( 14 days) in late March by the advection of a wedge of near-freezing waters from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In situ processes appeared to play a lesser role in the renewal of this layer. In particular, significant wintertime deepening of the estuarine surface mixed layer was prevented by surface stability, which remained high throughout the winter. The observations also suggest that the bottom circulation was intensified during winter, with the intrusion in the deep layer of relatively warm Atlantic waters, such that the 3 C isotherm rose from below 150 m to near 60 m.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Environmental Systems Science Centre
ID Code:4869
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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