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Dynamic characteristics and horizontal transports of internal solitons generated at the Columbia River plume front

Continental Shelf Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2008.01.002
  • Columbia River Plume
  • Internal Solitons
  • Horizontal Transports


Abstract River plume front-generated internal solitons play an important role in the interaction between the plume and coastal waters. The internal solitons drive a non-harmonic velocity field, resulting in a horizontal transport that carries plume water seaward and redistributes nutrients and sediments. In this study, we present observations of internal solitons generated at the Columbia River plume front that separates the new, tidal plume, older plume and coastal waters. Scale analyses suggest that the plume front-generated internal solitons are highly non-linear waves, and their dynamic properties do not conform to any weakly non-linear theory. Thus, a high-order Korteweg–de Vries (KdV) theory is used to analyze the internal solitons. The comparison between theoretical values and cruise data shows that the high-order KdV model is much better than the weakly non-linear theories for prediction of the soliton dynamic parameters. Based on the model, we develop theoretical and numerical solutions of the soliton-induced upper layer horizontal transport and Lagrangian water parcel transport distance, which shows that the water particle drift, during the internal soliton passage, is as far as 1 km, and demonstrates the role of the internal solitons on the exchange between the plume and ambient coastal water. Energy fluxes caused by the internal solitons are estimated using the high-order KdV theory. The leading soliton fluxes 2.0×10 3 W m −1 per unit crest length, and carries energy of 4.2×10 5 J m −1. The total energy carried by the eight internal solitons is 1.6×10 6 J m −1, about 70% of the total frontal energy.

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