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Subtidal sea level variability in a shallow Mississippi River deltaic estuary, Louisiana

January 1, 2007

The relative roles of river, atmospheric, and tidal forcings on estuarine sea level variability are examined in Breton Sound, a shallow (0.7 m) deltaic estuary situated in an interdistributary basin on the Mississippi River deltaic plain. The deltaic landscape contains vegetated marshes, tidal flats, circuitous channels, and other features that frictionally dissipate waves propagating through the system. Direct forcing by local wind stress over the surface of the estuary is minimal, owing to the lack of significant fetch due to landscape features of the estuary. Atmospheric forcing occurs almost entirely through remote forcing, where alongshore winds facilitate estuary-shelf exchange through coastal Ekman convergence. The highly frictional nature of the deltaic landscape causes the estuary to act as a low-pass filter to remote atmospheric forcing, where high-frequency, coastally-induced fluctuations are significantly damped, and the damping increases with distance from the estuary mouth. During spring, when substantial quantities of controlled Mississippi River inputs (q¯ = 62 m3 s¯ 1) are discharged into the estuary, upper estuary subtidal sea levels are forced by a combination of river and remote atmospheric forcings, while river effects are less clear downestuary. During autumn (q¯ = 7 m3 s-1) sea level variability throughout the estuary is governed entirely by coastal variations at the marine boundary. A frequency-dependent analytical model, previously used to describe sea level dynamics forced by local wind stress and coastal forcing in deeper, less frictional systems, is applied in the shallow Breton Sound estuary. In contrast to deeper systems where coastally-induced fluctuations exhibit little or no frictional attenuation inside the estuary, these fluctuations in the shallow Breton Sound estuary show strong frequency-dependent amplitude reductions that extend well into the subtidal frequency spectrum. 

Publication Year 2007
Title Subtidal sea level variability in a shallow Mississippi River deltaic estuary, Louisiana
DOI 10.1007/BF02841335
Authors G.A. Snedden, J.E. Cable, W.J. Wiseman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70031649
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center