We adapted the coupled ocean-sediment transport model to the northern Gulf of Mexico to examine sediment dynamics on seasonal-to-decadal time scales as well as its response to decreased fluvial inputs from the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River. Sediment transport on the shelf exhibited contrasting conditions in a year, with strong westward transport in spring, fall, and winter, and relatively weak eastward transport in summer. Sedimentation rate varied from almost zero on the open shelf to more than 10 cm/year near river mouths. A phase shift in river discharge was detected in 1999 and was associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, after which, water and sediment fluxes decreased by ~20% and ~40%, respectively. Two sensitivity tests were carried out to examine the response of sediment dynamics to high and low river discharge, respectively. With a decreased fluvial supply, sediment flux and sedimentation rate were largely reduced in areas proximal to the deltas, which might accelerate the land loss in down-coast bays and estuaries. The results of two sensitivity tests indicated the decreased river discharge would largely affect sediment balance in waters around the delta. The impact from decreased fluvial input was minimum on the sandy shoals ~100 km west of the Mississippi Delta, where deposition of fluvial sediments was highly affected by winds.
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