Virginia Institute of Marine Science
JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-OCEANS
Because solar irradiance decreases approximately exponentially with depth in the sea, the increase in irradiance at the seabed from mid to low tide is greater than the decrease from mid to high tide. Summed over a day, this can lead to a net amplification of seabed irradiance in tidal waters compared to nontidal waters with the same mean depth and transparency. In this paper, this effect is quantified by numerical and analytical integration of the Lambert-Beer equation to derive the ratio of daily total seabed irradiance with and without a tide. Greatest amplification occurs in turbid water with large tidal range and low tide occurring at noon. The theoretical prediction is tested against observations of seabed irradiance in the coastal waters of North Wales where tidal amplification of seabed light by up to a factor of 7 is both observed and predicted. Increasing the strength of tidal currents tends to increase the turbidity of the water and hence reduce the light reaching the seabed, but this effect is made less by increasing tidal amplification, especially when low water is in the middle of the day. The ecological implications of tidal amplification are discussed. The productivity of benthic algae will be greater than that predicted by simple models which calculate seabed irradiance using the mean depth of water alone. Benthic algae are also able to live at greater depths in tidal waters than in nontidal waters with the same transparency.
Bowers, D. G. and Brubaker, John M., "Tidal amplification of seabed light" (2010). VIMS Articles. 268.