Tides, freshwater and winds: Modeling the impacts of currents on the Oregon Inner Continental Shelf and within Yaquina Bay estuary (2012-14)

James Lerczak
Oregon State University
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
104 CEOAS Administration Building
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
Phone: 541-737-6128
On the Web:
Departmental page

Oregon's inner shelf and estuaries are regions of high economic, ecological and recreational value. The currents, driven by tides, freshwater, and winds, control the exchange between estuaries and the coastal ocean and regulate water properties in these regions. Properties such as temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen regulate suitable nursery habitat for commercially important fish and crabs. Quantifying variations in habitat suitability requires an understanding of the physical processes that control currents and water properties along the coastal ocean and within estuaries.

The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) is developing a test site just offshore of Yaquina Bay, Oregon to provide wave energy developers with an ocean environment for testing moored wave energy devices. However, NNMREC is not conducting circulation modeling studies.

This project will contribute to our understanding of the physical oceanography of estuaries, and interactions between estuaries and the coastal ocean, as it focuses on an estuary type whose dynamics have received little scientific attention (strongly, but highly-intermittently forced estuaries, typical of coastal mountain rivers).  The project will provide high-resolution, predictive estimates of currents and water properties within Yaquina Bay and adjacent coastal waters, where wave energy testing is imminent. And the model will predict currents during winter storms, when on-site measurements are not available.

This predictive model should be useful to future research projects; it can be used to study potential changes in estuary and coastal water quality due development or other human-caused changes to the bay. Finally, the model can be used to study changes to circulation, residence times and water properties in the bay due to sea-level rise under different climate change scenarios.

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