A three-dimensional numerical study of river plume mixing processes in Otsuchi Bay, Japan

Kaushik Sasmal, Eiji Masunaga, Adrean Webb, Oliver B. Fringer, Edward S. Gross, Matthew D. Rayson, Hidekatsu Yamazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The three-dimensional numerical model SUNTANS is applied to investigate river plume mixing in Otsuchi Bay, an estuary located along the Sanriku Coast of Iwate, Japan. Results from numerical simulations with different idealized forcing scenarios (barotropic tide, baroclinic tide, and diurnal wind) are compared with field observations to diagnose dominant mixing mechanisms. Under the influence of combined barotropic, baroclinic and wind forcing, the model reproduces observed salinity profiles well and achieves a skill score of 0.94. In addition, the model forced by baroclinic internal tides reproduces observed cold-water intrusions in the bay, and barotropic tidal forcing reproduces observed salt wedge dynamics near the river mouths. Near these river mouths, vertically sheared flows are generated due to the interaction of river discharge and tidal elevations. River plume mixing is quantified using vertical salt flux and reveals that mixing near the vicinity of the river mouth, is primarily generated by the barotropic tidal forcing. A 10 ms−1 strong diurnal breeze compared to a 5 ms−1 weak breeze generates higher mixing in the bay. In contrast to the barotropic forcing, internal tidal (baroclinic) effects are the dominant mixing mechanisms away from the river mouths, particularly in the middle of the bay, where a narrow channel strengthens the flow speed. The mixing structure is horizontally asymmetric, with the middle and northern parts exhibiting stronger mixing than the southern part of the bay. This study identifies several mixing hot-spots within the bay and is of great importance for the coastal aquaculture system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-186
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Oceanography
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2017


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