Observations of wave effects on inlet circulation Academic Article uri icon


  • Observations of water levels, winds, waves, and currents in Katama Bay, Edgartown Channel, and Katama Inlet on Martha‚Äôs Vineyard, Massachusetts are used to test the hypothesis that wave forcing is important to circulation in inlet channels of two-inlet systems and to water levels in the bay between the inlets. Katama Bay is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via Katama Inlet and to Vineyard Sound via Edgartown Channel. A numerical model based on the momentum and continuity equations that uses measured bathymetry and is driven with observed water levels in the ocean and sound, ocean waves, and local winds predicts the currents observed in Katama Inlet more accurately when wave forcing is included than when waves are ignored. During Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, when incident (12-m water depth) significant wave heights were greater than 5 m, breaking-wave cross-shore (along-inlet-channel) radiation stress gradients enhanced flows from the ocean into the bay during flood tides, and reduced (almost to zero during Irene) flows out of the bay during ebb tides. Model simulations without the effects of waves predict net discharge from the sound to the ocean both during Hurricane Irene and over a 1-month period with a range of conditions. In contrast, simulations that include wave forcing predict net discharge from the ocean to the sound, consistent with the observations. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • July 2014