The Spatial Structure of Tidal and Mean Circulation over the Inner Shelf South of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract The spatial structure of the tidal and background circulation over the inner shelf south of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, was investigated using observations from a high-resolution, high-frequency coastal radar system, paired with satellite SSTs and in situ ADCP velocities. Maximum tidal velocities for the dominant semidiurnal constituent increased from 5 to 35 cm s?1 over the 20-km-wide domain with phase variations up to 60°. A northeastward jet along the eastern edge and a recirculation region inshore dominated the annually averaged surface currents, along with a separate along-shelf jet offshore. Owing in part to this variable circulation, the spatial structure of seasonal SST anomalies had implications for the local heat balance. Cooling owing to the advective heat flux divergence was large enough to offset more than half of the seasonal heat gain owing to surface heat flux. Tidal stresses were the largest terms in the mean along- and across-shelf momentum equations in the area of the recirculation, with residual wind stress and the Coriolis term dominating to the west and south, respectively. The recirculation was strongest in summer, with mean winds and tidal stresses accounting for much of the differences between summer and winter mean circulation. Despite the complex bathymetry and short along-shelf spatial scales, a simple model of tidal rectification was able to recreate the features of the northeastward jet and match an estimate of the across-shelf structure of sea surface height inferred from the residual of the momentum analysis.

publication date

  • September 1, 2013