Numerical analysis of stratification and destratification processes in a tidally energetic inlet with an ebb tidal delta


Stratification and destratification processes in a tidally energetic, weakly stratified inlet in the Wadden Sea (south eastern North Sea) are investigated in this modeling study. Observations of current velocity and vertical density structure show strain-induced periodic stratification for the southern shoal of the tidal channel. In contrast to this, in the nearby central region of the channel, increased stratification is already observed directly after full flood. To investigate the processes leading to this different behavior, a nested model system using GETM is set up and successfully validated against field data. The simulated density development along a cross section that includes both stations shows that cross-channel stratification is strongly increasing during flood, such that available potential energy is released in the deeper part of the channel during flood. An analysis of the potential energy anomaly budget confirms that the early onset of vertical stratification during flood at the deeper station is mainly controlled by the stratifying cross-channel straining of the density field. In contrast to this, in the shallow part of the channel, the relatively weak cross-channel straining is balanced by along-channel straining and vertical mixing. An idealized analytical model confirms the following hypothesis: The laterally convergent flood current advecting laterally stratified water masses from the shallow and wide ebb tidal delta to the deep and narrow tidal channel has the tendency to substantially increase cross-channel density gradients in the tidal channel. This process leads to stratification during flood.
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