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Open AccessArticle

Surface Imprints of Water-Column Turbulence: A Case Study of Tidal Flow over an Estuarine Sill

Remote Sensing Division, Naval Research Laboratory, 4555 Overlook Avenue S.W., Washington, DC 20375, USA
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Remote Sens. 2013, 5(7), 3239-3258; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs5073239
Received: 5 May 2013 / Revised: 25 June 2013 / Accepted: 26 June 2013 / Published: 4 July 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Observing the Ocean’s Interior from Satellite Remote Sensing)
Turbulent mixing in the ocean can, in some cases, be so intense as to leave surface imprints, or “boils”, that are detectable from space. Examples include turbulent flow over a submerged obstacle and instability of large-amplitude internal waves. In this paper we examine the particular case of tidal flow over a ~60-m-deep sill, which forms a barrier for the flow of dense water from the Pacific Ocean into the Strait of Georgia. The flow response during flood tide is illustrated using visible and thermal-band satellite and airborne imagery, the latter having high-resolution multi-looks that capture the formative stage of the boils. The image examples capture aspects of the expected flow response based on in situ measurements reported in the literature, but they also suggest differences, and they reveal the level of complexity of the surface structure. A new result is that, after the front is pushed well off the sill, boils emerge several hundred meters downstream from the sill crest, grow at a rate of ~60 m2/s, and attain a size of 3,800 m2 (an equivalent diameter of 70 m) after one minute. These boils appear to arise from vorticity generated by vertical shear at the sill crest, and provide an additional source of vertical mixing and (through wave breaking) air-sea gas exchange. View Full-Text
Keywords: ocean remote sensing; thermal infrared imagery; sill-induced mixing; boils; Boundary Pass ocean remote sensing; thermal infrared imagery; sill-induced mixing; boils; Boundary Pass
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Marmorino, G.O.; Smith, G.B.; Miller, W.D. Surface Imprints of Water-Column Turbulence: A Case Study of Tidal Flow over an Estuarine Sill. Remote Sens. 2013, 5, 3239-3258.

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