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Recent research on the hydrodynamics of the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta and north San Francisco Bay

January 1, 2000

This article presents an overview of recent findings from hydrodynamic research on circulation and mixing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) (Figure 1) and North San Francisco Bay (North Bay) (Figure 2). For the purposes of this article, North Bay includes San Pablo Bay, Carquinez Strait, and Suisun Bay. The findings presented are those gained from field studies carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), as part of the Interagency Ecological Program (IEP), and Stanford University beginning about 1993. The premise behind these studies was that a basic understanding of circulation and mixing patterns in the Bay and Delta is an essential part of understanding how biota and water quality are affected by natural hydrologic variability, water appropriation, and development activities. Data collected for the field studies described in this article have significantly improved our understanding of Bay and Delta hydrodynamics. Measured flows ,in the Delta have provided valuable information on how water moves through the Delta's network of channels and how export pumping affects flows. Studies of the shallows and shallow-channel exchange processes conducted in Honker Bay have shown that the water residence time in Honker Bay is much shorter than previously reported (on the order of hours to several tidal cycles instead ofweeks). Suisun Bay studies have provided data on hydrodynamic transport and accumulation mechanisms that operate primarily in the channels. The Suisun Bay studies have caused us to revise our understanding of residual circulation in the channels of North Bay and of "entrapment" mechanisms in the low salinity zone. Finally, detailed tidal and residual (tidally averaged) time-scale studies of the mechanisms that control gravitational circulation in the estuary show that density-driven transport in the channels is governed by turbulence time-scale (seconds) interactions between the mean flow and stratification. The hydrodynamic research summarized in this article spans a range of estuarine environments (deep water channels to shallow water habitats and brackish water to freshwater) at time scales that range from seconds to years.

Publication Year 2000
Title Recent research on the hydrodynamics of the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta and north San Francisco Bay
Authors Jon R. Burau, Stephen G. Monismith, Mark T. Stacey, Richard N. Oltmann, Jessica Lacy, David H. Schoellhamer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Interagency Ecological Program Newsletter
Index ID 70174259
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; San Francisco Bay-Delta; Pacific Regional Director's Office