Modeling nearshore-offshore exchange in Lake Superior

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Abstract

Lake Superior's ecosystem includes distinct nearshore and offshore food webs linked by hydrodynamic processes that transport water and tracers along and across shore. The scales over which these processes occur and their sensitivity to increasing summer surface temperatures are not well understood. This study investigated horizontal mixing between nearshore and offshore areas of Lake Superior over the 10-year period from 2003 to 2012 using a realistically forced three-dimensional numerical model and virtual tracers. An age tracer was used to characterize the time scales of horizontal mixing between nearshore areas of the lake where water depth is less than 100 m and deeper areas. The age of water in nearshore areas increased and decreased in an annual cycle corresponding to the lake0s dimictic cycle of vertical mixing and stratification. Interannual variability of mixing in the isothermal period was significantly correlated to average springtime wind speed, whereas variability during the stratified season was correlated to the average summer surface temperature. Dispersal of a passive tracer released from nine locations around the model lake’s perimeter was more extensive in late summer when stratification was established lakewide than in early summer. The distribution of eddies resolved in the model reflected differences between the early and late summer dispersal patterns. In the eastern part of the lake dispersal was primarily alongshore, reflecting counterclockwise coastal circulation. In the western part of the lake, cross-shore mixing was enhanced by cross-basin currents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0193183
JournalPloS one
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018

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