Island wakes and headland eddies: a comparison between remotely sensed data and laboratory experiments

Charitha Pattiaratchi, Alec James, Michael B Collins

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126 Citations (Scopus)


Island wakes and headland eddies in coastal waters are identified from spaceborne and airborne remotely sensed imagery in the visible wavelengths. The imagery were obtained for the Bristol and English channels, United Kingdom, which are characterized by high tidal currents and levels of turbidity. Suspended matter in the surface waters is used as a passive tracer for the flow features. Scaling parameters (e.g., the Reynolds, Ekman, and Rossby numbers), obtained from the depth averaged equation of motion, are presented based upon information on oceanographic conditions at the times of the overpasses. The parameters are compared then with data obtained from laboratory model investigations, presented by other experimenters in the published literature. The remotely sensed data demonstrate that in coastal waters with nonuniform obstacles and bathymetry, for a given Ekman number the flow regimes occur at a lower Rossby number than might be expected from laboratory experiments. In the absence of a method for the accurate determination of the horizontal eddy viscosity, hence the Reynolds number, it is concluded that an “island wake parameter” (Wolanski et al., 1984a) should be adopted to describe such features in coastal waters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783–794
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research - Oceans
Issue numberC1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 1987
Externally publishedYes


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