Study Characterizes River Plume Mixing Processes in Coastal Waters
March 7, 2017
Scientists assessed the behavior of a Florida river plume to determine how it might influence the transport and dispersion of surface oil near coastal regions. The researchers found that the near-surface measurements of dissipation at the front’s bounding edge were four orders of magnitude larger than the environment beneath. Frontal processes accounted for approximately 60% of the overall mixing of river plume water observed near the coast. An energetic wake trailed the frontal edge, which could potentially increase frontal and plume mixing and could push surface-trapped oil downward. The researchers published their findings in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans: On the nature of the frontal zone of the Choctawhatchee Bay plume in the Gulf of Mexico.
River plumes are common transport pathways between estuaries and coastal regions. Mixing inside these plumes controls where estuarine material is deposited into coastal waters. Because the highest social-economic impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was on coastal communities, it is important to represent coastal processes in oil transport model predictions.