On the Response of a Buoyant Plume to Downwelling-Favorable Wind Stress Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Here, the response of a coastally trapped buoyant plume to downwelling-favorable wind forcing is explored using a simplified two-dimensional numerical model and a prognostic theory for the resulting width, depth, and density anomaly and along-shelf transport of the plume. Consistent with the numerical simulations, the analytical model shows that the wind causes mixing of the plume water and that the forced cross-shelf circulation can also generate significant deepening and surface narrowing, as well as increased along-shelf transport. The response is due to a combination of the purely advective process that leads to the steepening of the isopycnals and the entrainment of ambient water into the plume. The advective component depends on the initial plume geometry: plumes that have a large fraction of their total width in contact with the bottom (“bottom trapped”) suffer relatively small depth and width changes compared to plumes that have a large fraction of their total width detached from the bottom (“surface trapped”). Key theoretical parameters are W?/W?, the ratio of the width of the plume detached from the bottom to the width of the plume in contact with it, and the ratio of the wind-generated mixed layer ?e to the initial plume depth hp, which determines the amount of water initially entrained into the plume. The model results also show that the cross-shelf circulation can be strongly influenced by the wind-driven response in combination with the geostrophic shear of the plume. The continuous entrainment into the plume, as well as transient events, is also discussed.

publication date

  • January 1, 2012