Circular plumes in Lake Pontchartrain estuary under wind straining

Chunyan Li, Nan Walker, Aixin Hou, Ioannis Georgiou, Harry Roberts, Ed Laws,, J. Alex McCorquodal, Eddie Weeks, Xiaofeng Li, Jessica Crocher

Circular shaped density plumes of low turbidity, low fecal indicator, (Escherichia coli and enterococci) concentrations, and high salinity have been observed near the Industrial Canal in Lake Pontchartrain, north of the City of New Orleans. A conceptual model in polar coordinates and a numerical model are developed, together with data analysis, to illustrate the dense plume. It is demonstrated that the northward expansion of the plume occurs under northerly winds. The northward expansion of the plume occurs under northerly winds that drive downwind flow at the surface and upwind radial flow at the bottom. Northerly wind-induced straining, similar to tidal straining, promotes vertical stratification. As a result, the water becomes stratified near a thin bottom layer (<1 m), within which density currents are facilitated. The stability of the stratified plume suppresses wind-induced turbulent mixing inside the plume. The bottom water outside of the plume is more effectively stirred by the wind, the result being that the suspended sediment concentration outside of the plume area is much higher than inside. This contrast in mixing makes the plume visible from the surface by satellites even though the stratification is at the bottom. Laterally, wind stress produces torque (vorticity) in areas of non-uniform depth such that upwind flow is developed in deep water and downwind flow in shallow water. The continuity requirement produces an upwind flow along the axis of the Industrial Canal (IC). The upwind flow is balanced by the downwind flow over the shallower peripheral areas along the coast.

Ref: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Vol. 80, July 21, 2008

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