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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 30 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 30 Oct 2019

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Storm-driven across-shelf oceanic flows into coastal waters

Sam Jones1, Mark Inall1,2, Marie Porter1, Jennifer Graham3, and Finlo Cottier1,4 Sam Jones et al.
  • 1Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban, Argyll, PA371QA, UK
  • 2Also with: University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences, Edinburgh, EH93FE, UK
  • 3Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft, NR330HT,UK
  • 4Also with: Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

Abstract. The North Atlantic Ocean and Northwest European shelf experience intense low-pressure systems during the winter months. The effect of strong winds on shelf circulation and water properties is poorly understood as observations during these episodes are rare, and key flow pathways have been poorly resolved by models up to now. We compare the behaviour of a cross-shelf current in a quiescent period in late summer, with the same current sampled during a stormy period in mid-winter, using drogued drifters. Concurrently, high-resolution time-series of current speed and salinity from a coastal mooring are analysed. A Lagrangian analysis of modelled particle tracks is used to supplement the observations. Current speeds at 70 m during the summer transit are 10–20 cm s−1, whereas on-shelf flow reaches 60 cm s−1 during the winter storm. The onset of high across-shelf flow is identified in the coastal mooring time-series, both as an increase in coastal current speed and as an abrupt increase in salinity from 34.50 to 34.85, which lags the current by 8 days. We interpret this as the wind-driven advection of outer-shelf (near-oceanic) water towards the coastline, which represents a significant change from the coastal water pathways which typically feed the inner shelf. The modelled particle analysis supports this interpretation: particles which terminate in coastal waters are recruited locally during the late summer, but recruitment switches to the outer shelf during the winter storm. We estimate that during intense storm periods, on-shelf transport may be up to 0.48 Sv, but that this is near the upper limit of transport based on the multi-year time series of coastal current and salinity. The likelihood of storms capable of producing these effects is much higher during NAO-positive winters.

Sam Jones et al.

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Sam Jones et al.

Sam Jones et al.


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Latest update: 19 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The ocean is an important source of nutrients and organisms to coastal waters, but it is not clear what controls current flow between the deep ocean and the coast. We contrasted ocean flow pathways and coastal water properties between summer 2013 and a series of intense storms in December 2013. Further, we assessed the likelihood of storms occurring over the North Atlantic during each winter. We found that local weather patterns exert a strong influence on coastal water properties and origins.
The ocean is an important source of nutrients and organisms to coastal waters, but it is not...