Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Ocean Modelling



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The response of Chesapeake Bay to forcing from two hurricanes is investigated using an unstructured-grid three-dimensional hydrodynamic model SELFE. The model domain includes Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, and the extended continental shelf in the mid-Atlantic Bight. The hurricanes chosen for the study are Hurricane Floyd (1999) and Hurricane Isabel (2003), both of which made landfall within 100 km of the mouth of the Bay. The model results agree reasonably well with field observations of water level, velocity, and salinity. From the Bay's water level response to the hurricanes, it was found that the storm surge in the Bay has two distinct stages: an initial stage set up by the remote winds and the second stage - a primary surge induced by the local winds. For the initial stage, the rising of the coastal sea level was setup by the remote wind of both hurricanes similarly, but for the second stage, the responses to the two hurricanes' local winds are significantly different. Hurricane Floyd was followed by down-Bay winds that canceled the initial setup and caused a set-down from the upper Bay. Hurricane Isabel, on the other hand, was followed by up-Bay winds, which reinforced the initial setup and continued to rise up against the head of the Bay. From the perspective of volume and salt fluxes, it is evident that an oceanic saltwater influx is pushed into the Bay from the continental shelf by the remote wind fields in the initial stages of the storm surge for both Floyd and Isabel. In the second stage after the hurricane made landfall, the Bay's local wind plays a key role in modulating the salinity and velocity fields through vertical mixing and longitudinal salt transport. Controlled numerical experiments are conducted in order to identify and differentiate the roles played by the local wind in stratified and destratified conditions. Down-estuary local wind stress (of Hurricane Floyd-type) tends to enhance stratification under moderate winds, but exhibits an increasing-then-decreasing stage when the wind stress increases. The up-estuary local wind stress (of Hurricane Isabel-type) tends to penetrate deeper into the water column, which reduces stratification by reversing gravitational circulation. To characterize mixing conditions in the estuary, a modified horizontal Richardson number that incorporates wind stress, wind direction, horizontal salinity gradient, and vertical eddy viscosity is used for both hurricanes. Finally, the direct precipitation of rainfall into the Bay during Hurricane Floyd appears to create not only a thin surface layer of low salinity but also a seaward barotropic pressure gradient that affects the subsequent redistribution of salinity after the storm. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.




Partially Stratified Estuary; Partially-Mixed Estuary; Induced Destratification; Turbulence Models; Residence Time; Ocean Exchange; Wind; Circulation; River; Equation