Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Publication Date



Journal of Marine Science and Engineering





First Page



: Atmospheric cold fronts can periodically generate storm surges and affect sediment transport in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM). In this paper, we evaluate water circulation spatiotemporal patterns induced by six atmospheric cold front events in the Wax Lake Delta (WLD) in coastal Louisiana using the 3-D hydrodynamic model ECOM-si. Model simulations show that channelized and inter-distributary water flow is significantly impacted by cold fronts. Water volume transport throughout the deltaic channel network is not just constrained to the main channels but also occurs laterally across channels accounting for about a quarter of the total flow. Results show that a significant landward flow occurs across the delta prior to the frontal passage, resulting in a positive storm surge on the coast. The along-channel current velocity dominates while cross-channel water transport occurs at the southwest lobe during the post-frontal stage. Depending on local weather conditions, the cold-front-induced flushing event lasts for 1.7 to 7 days and can flush 32–76% of the total water mass out of the system, a greater range of variability than previous reports. The magnitude of water flushed out of the system is not necessarily dependent on the duration of the frontal events. An energy partitioning analysis shows that the relative importance of subtidal energy (10–45% of the total) and tidal energy (20–70%) varies substantially from station to station and is linked to the weather impact. It is important to note that within the WLD region, the weather-induced subtidal energy (46–66% of the total) is much greater than the diurnal tidal energy (13–25% of the total). The wind associated with cold fronts in winter is the main factor controlling water circulation in the WLD and is a major driver in the spatial configuration of the channel network and delta progradation rates.


doi: 10.3390/jmse10030415

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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