Impacts of surface gravity waves on a tidal front: A coupled model perspective

A set of realistic coastal coupled ocean-wave numerical simulations is used to study the impact of surface gravity waves on a tidal temperature front and surface currents. The processes at play are elucidated through analyses of the budgets of the horizontal momentum, the temperature, and the turbulence closure equations. The numerical system consists of a 3D coastal hydrodynamic circulation model (Model for Applications at Regional Scale, MARS3D) and the third generation wave model WAVEWATCH III (WW3) coupled with OASIS-MCT at horizontal resolutions of 500 and 1500 m, respectively. The models were run for a period of low to moderate southwesterly winds as observed during the Front de Marée Variable (FroMVar) field campaign in the Iroise Sea where a seasonal small-scale tidal sea surface temperature front is present. Over the 2 day period considered, long fetch waves grow gradually propagating north east and east.

Contrasting a stand-alone ocean run with a coupled ocean-wave run shows that waves move the Ushant front offshore by up to 4 kilometres and cool the offshore stratified side of the front by up to 1.5°C. The analysis of the temperature budget shows that the change in advection is the dominant factor contributing to the frontal shift while the contribution of wave enhanced vertical temperature diffusion is secondary. Temperature, considered to be a tracer, is advected in the coupled run by the Lagrangian current resulting from the quasi-Eulerian and Stokes drift. Although the Stokes drift is directed shorewards, changes in the quasi-Eulerian current lead to a more offshore advection in the coupled than the stand-alone run. The quasi-Eulerian current is reduced (enhanced) during the ebb (flood) flow which correspond to periods of wave-following (-opposing) currents. This is due to wave breaking enhanced vertical mixing acting on the positive vertical gradient present in the quasi-Eulerian current during both ebb and flood tides. Partially coupled runs reveal that it is the surface flux of TKE associated to wave breaking that is key rather than the changes in the surface stress. They further elucidate the role of other modelled wave related processes. Although the contribution of the Stokes–Coriolis force and the wave breaking induced enhancement in vertical mixing to the quasi-Eulerian current are of similar magnitude and sign, it does not contribute significantly to the frontal shift. This is because it partially counters the Stokes drift advection which pushes the front shorewards. All Stokes drift related processes combined thus only lead to a very slight displacement of the front.


Ocean-wave coupling, Coastal coupled modelling, Current-wave interactions, Tidal front, Iroise Sea

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MMC S1. Full depth version Fig. 8 and times series of the terms of the current equation for the zonal and meridional components, respectively, similar to Figure Fig. 11.
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Brumer Sophia, Garnier Valerie, Redelsperger Jean-Luc, Bouin Marie-Noelle, Ardhuin Fabrice, Accensi Mickael (2020). Impacts of surface gravity waves on a tidal front: A coupled model perspective. Ocean Modelling. 154. 101677 (18p.).,

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