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The freshwater transport and dynamics of the western Maine coastal current

January 1, 2004

Observations in the Gulf of Maine, USA, were used to characterize the freshwater transport, temporal variability and dynamics of the western Maine coastal current. These observations included moored measurements, multiple hydrographic surveys, and drifter releases during April–July of 1993 and 1994. There is a strong seasonal signal in salinity and along-shore velocity of the coastal current, caused by the freshwater inputs of the rivers entering the western Gulf. Surface salinity within the coastal current during the spring freshet is typically 2 psu below ambient, and along-shore currents in the surface layer are directed southwestward at speeds of 0.10–0.20 m s−1, occasionally reaching 0.50 m s−1. The plume thickness is typically 10–20 m in water depths of 50–100 m, thus it is well isolated from the bottom over most of its areal extent. The along-coast freshwater transport within the plume varies considerably due to variations in wind stress, but on time scales of weeks to months it follows the variations of riverine input, with a time lag consistent with the advective velocity. Less than half of the transport of the coastal current is explained by the baroclinic gradient; the barotropic forcing associated with the larger-scale dynamics of the Gulf of Maine accounts for about 60% of the transport. The volume of freshwater transport in the coastal current exceeds the local riverine input of fresh water by 30%, suggesting a significant contribution of freshwater transport from the St. John River, 500 km northeastward. The measurements within the western Maine coastal current, however, indicate a significant decrease in the baroclinic transport of fresh water along the coast, with an e-folding scale of approximately 200 km.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2004
Title The freshwater transport and dynamics of the western Maine coastal current
DOI 10.1016/j.csr.2004.04.001
Authors W.R. Geyer, R. P. Signell, D.A. Fong, Jingyuan Wang, D.M. Anderson, B.A. Keafer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Continental Shelf Research
Series Number
Index ID 70026987
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center