A model study of the Salish Sea estuarine circulation

David A. Sutherland, Parker Maccready, Neil S. Banas, Lucy F. Smedstad

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100 Citations (Scopus)


Arealistic hindcast simulation of the Salish Sea, which encompasses the estuarine systems of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait ofGeorgia, is described for the year 2006. The model showsmoderate skill when compared against hydrographic, velocity, and sea surface height observations over tidal and subtidal time scales. Analysis of the velocity and salinity fields allows the structure and variability of the exchange flow to be estimated for the first time from the shelf into the farthest reaches of Puget Sound. This study utilizes the total exchange flow formalism that calculates volume transports and salt fluxes in an isohaline framework, which is then compared to previous estimates of exchange flow in the region. From this analysis, residence time distributions are estimated for Puget Sound and its major basins and are found to bemarkedly shorter than previous estimates. The difference arises from the ability of the model and the isohaline method for flux calculations to more accurately estimate the exchange flow. In addition, evidence is found to support the previously observed spring-neap modulation of stratification at the Admiralty Inlet sill. However, the exchange flow calculated increases at spring tides, exactly opposite to the conclusion reached from an Eulerian average of observations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1143
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • coastal flows
  • estuaries
  • ocean models

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