© 2018 American Meteorological Society. We examine temporal variability of thermally driven baroclinic cross-shore exchange in the context of a tropical fringing reef system focusing on the role of tidally driven alongshore flow. Ensemble diurnal phase averaging of cross-shore flow at the Kilo Nalu Observatory (KNO) in Oahu, Hawaii, shows a robust diurnal signal associated with an unsteady buoyancy/diffusive dynamic balance, although significant variability is observed at subdiurnal time scales. In particular, persistent fortnightly variability in the cross-shore diurnal flow pattern is consistent with modulation by the semidiurnal alongshore tidal flow. The alongshore flow plays a direct role in the cross-shore exchange momentum balance via Coriolis acceleration but also affects the cross-shore circulation indirectly via its influence on vertical turbulent diffusion. An idealized linear theoretical model for thermally driven cross-shore flow is formulated using the long-term time-averaged diurnal dynamic balance at KNO as a baseline. The model is driven at leading order by the surface heat flux, with contributions from the alongshore flow and cross-shore wind appearing as linear perturbations. Superposition of the idealized solutions for Coriolis and time-varying eddy viscosity perturbations are able to reproduce key aspects of the fortnightly variability. Modifying the model to consider a more realistic alongshore flow and considering effects of nightly convection lead to further improvements in comparisons with KNO observations. The ability of the theoretical approach to reproduce the fortnightly patterns indicates that semidiurnal variations in the alongshore flow are effective in modulating the cross-shore flow via Coriolis and vertical turbulent transport mechanisms.