Dynamics of the block Island Sound estuarine plume

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Buoyant discharge of freshwater from Long Island Sound (LIS) forms a seasonal buoyant plume outside Block Island Sound (BIS) between the coast of Long Island and the denser shelf waters. The plume's seasonal variability and its response to tides, winds, and surface heating are investigated through a series of process-oriented experiments using the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS). Results show the importance of river discharge, wind directions, and surface heating in the seasonal variation of the BIS buoyant plume. In winter and spring, the plume is intermediate with a large surface offshore extension detached from the bottom. From winter to spring, the river discharge increases; meanwhile, upwelling-favorable winds keep dominating. They compete with the increase of surface heating and generate a broader buoyant plume in spring than in winter. In summer, the plume is bottom advected with most of its width in contact with the bottom and is featured with the steepest isopycnals and narrowest plume, which is driven by a combination of strong insolation, weak buoyant discharge from LIS, and feeble winds. In fall, although the river discharge is comparable to that in winter, the upwelling-favorable wind is relatively weaker, corresponding to a narrower intermediate plume.

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Journal of Physical Oceanography