The Rhine outflow plume studied by the analysis of synthetic aperture radar data and numerical simulations.

Hessner, Katrin, Rubino, Angelo, Brandt, Peter and Alpers, Werner (2001) The Rhine outflow plume studied by the analysis of synthetic aperture radar data and numerical simulations. Open Access Journal of Physical Oceanography, 31 . pp. 3030-3044. DOI 10.1175/1520-0485(2001)031<3030:TROPSB>2.0.CO;2.

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Abstract

The dynamics of the Rhine outflow plume in the proximity of the river mouth is investigated by using remote sensing data and numerical simulations. The remote sensing data consist of 41 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images acquired by the First and Second European Remote Sensing satellites ERS-1 and ERS-2 over the outflow region of the river Rhine. Most of them show sea surface signatures of oceanic phenomena, for example, surface current and wind variations, ship wakes, and oil slicks. In particular, in 36 of these images pronounced frontal features are visible as narrow zones of mainly enhanced, sometimes enhanced/reduced radar backscatter that can be associated with the Rhine surface front. Within the area enclosed by the frontal line, large zones characterized by a lower radar backscatter than in the outer area are often visible. The analysis of the ERS SAR images suggests that the form and the location of the frontal features are mainly linked to the semidiurnal tidal phase in the outflow region, although their variability suggests also that they weakly depend on river discharge, residual currents, and neap-spring tidal cycle. In order to test this observational hypothesis, the results obtained from the analysis of the ERS SAR images are compared with the results obtained from the numerical simulation of the hydrodynamics of the Rhine outflow region carried out using a two-layer, frontal model, which is based on the nonlinear, hydrostatic shallow-water equations on an f plane. The model is forced by prescribing tidal and residual currents and river discharge at the open boundaries. Several simulations are performed by varying the values of these forcing parameters. The numerical results corroborate the observational conjecture: It is found that the form and the location of the simulated interface outcropping lines in the proximity of the river mouth are mainly determined by the semidiurnal tidal phase in the outflow region and that river discharge, residual currents, and neap-spring tidal cycle contribute only secondarily to their determination. Inserting the simulated surface velocity field into a simple radar-imaging model that relates the modulation of the backscattered radar power to the surface velocity convergence in radar look direction, narrow, elongated bands of enhanced radar backscatter emerge near the model frontal line while patches of low radar backscatter appear within the simulated Rhine plume area. The consistency of the model results with the results obtained from the analysis of the SAR images enables one to infer a mean spatial and temporal evolution of the Rhine outflow plume over a semidiurnal tidal cycle from the analysis of spaceborne SAR images acquired during different tidal cycles over the Rhine outflow area and suggests the possibility of using numerical modeling, in conjunction with the analysis of spaceborne measurements, for monitoring the oceanic variability in the Rhine outflow area

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Physical Oceanography; Rhine outflow plume
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-PO Physical Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1175/1520-0485(2001)031<3030:TROPSB>2.0.CO;2
ISSN: 0022-3670
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2008 17:25
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2018 11:50
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/64

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