Virginia Institute of Marine Science
JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-BIOGEOSCIENCES
Driven by estuarine circulation, material released from lower Chesapeake Bay tributaries has the potential to be transported to the upper Bay. How far and what fraction of the material from tributaries can be carried to the upper estuary have not been quantitatively investigated. For an estuary system with multiple tributaries, the relative contribution from each tributary can provide valuable information for source assessment and fate prediction for riverine materials and passive moving organisms. We conducted long-term numerical simulations using multiple passive tracers that are independently released in the headwater of five main rivers (i.e., Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers) and calculated the relative contribution of each river to the total material in the mainstem. The results show that discharge from Susquehanna River exerts the dominant control on the riverine material throughout the entire mainstem. Despite the smaller contribution from the lower-middle Bay tributaries to the total materials in the mainstem, materials released from these rivers have a high potential to be transported to the middle-upper Bay through the bottom inflow by the persistent estuarine circulation. The fraction of the tributary material transported to the upper Bay depends on the location of the tributary. Materials released near the mouth are subject to a rapid flushing process, small retention time, and strong shelf current. Our results reveal three distinct spatial patterns for materials released from the main river, tributary, and coastal oceans. This study highlights the important control of estuarine circulation over horizontal and vertical distributions of materials in the mainstem.
riverine material; passive tracer; numerical modeling; Chesapeake Bay; estuarine circulation
Du, Jiabi and Shen, Jian, "Transport of Riverine Material From Multiple Rivers in the Chesapeake Bay: Important Control of Estuarine Circulation on the Material Distribution" (2017). VIMS Articles. 239.