Long-Term Observations of Turbulent Reynolds Stresses over the Inner Continental Shelf Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract In situ observations of turbulent momentum flux, or Reynolds stresses, were estimated from a 10-yr acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) record of inner-shelf velocities at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) using recently developed analysis techniques that account for wave-induced biases. These observations were used to examine the vertical structure of stress and turbulent mixing in the coastal ocean during tidal-, wave-, and wind-driven circulation by conditionally averaging the dataset by the level of forcing or stratification present. Bottom-intensified stresses were found during tidally driven flow, having estimated eddy viscosities as high as 1 × 10?2 m?2 s?1 during slack water. An assessment of the mean, low-wave, low-wind stress results quantified the magnitude of an unmeasured body force responsible for the mean circulation present in the absence of wind and wave forcing. During weak stratification and isolated wind forcing, downwind stresses matched the observed wind stress near the surface and generally decreased with depth linearly for both along- and across-shelf wind forcing. While consistent with simple models of circulation during across-shelf wind forcing, the linear slope of the stress profile present during along-shelf wind forcing requires the existence of an along-shelf pressure gradient that scales with the wind forcing. At increased levels of stratification, the observed downwind stresses generally weakened and shifted to the across-wind direction during across-shelf and mixed-direction (i.e., onshore and along shelf) wind forcing consistent with Ekman spiral modification, but were more variable during along-shelf wind forcing. No measurable stresses were found due to wave-forced conditions, confirming previous theoretical results.

publication date

  • December 1, 2013