Parker MacCready, UW Physical Oceanography

Estuarine Circulation and Mixing

  • Oceanography 501a, Winter Quarter 1999, SLN 5732

  • Meetings: 211 Ocean Teaching Building, MWF 11:30-12:20

  • Parker MacCready, 102 Ocean Research Building #1, 685-9588

  • Michael Gregg, 522 Henderson Hall, 543-1353


" be summa cum laude in estuarine productivity, there must be circulation. A good mix, one is tempted to say, is almost everything. Not just in one direction. There should be two-layered or horizontal circulation in which heavier salt water from the ocean slides under the lighter and fresher surface water from rivers. Inexorably, that is, with a net flow upstream on the bottom and downstream on the top which surmounts the temporary effects of wind and tide. Ideally, there should also be some vertical mixing, which is not found in every estuary, since it requires significant contrasts in depths and water temperatures." from Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay, by William W. Warner.


(Jan. 4) Introduction: What estuaries are like and why

(Jan. 11) Tides

(Jan. 18, no Monday) Guest Lecture

(Jan. 25) Turbulence: Vertical Fluxes of Momentum and Buoyancy

Feb. 1) Flow Over Sills & Through Contractions

(Feb. 8) Baroclinic Forces: the Exchange Flow and Salt Balance

(Feb. 15, no Monday) Coastal Plain Estuaries

(Feb. 22) Fjords

(Mar. 1) Well-Mixed Estuaries, Salt Wedges, and Other Effects

(Mar. 8) Approaching Research Questions in "Your" Estuary

(Mar. 15) Finals week (no class)

Class Notes

Required text: Dyer, K. R., 1997: Estuaries, A Physical Introduction, 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 195 pp. This should be available in the University Bookstore (it's not very expensive). Also, get yourself a copy of the local "Tide Guide", just $2 near the checkout counter at the South Campus Center Bookstore.

This class is intended to be of use to graduate students from all the sciences. While familiarity with fluid mechanics and differential equations is useful, it is not required. If there are widely disparate backgrounds, we may make different versions of the problem sets. The reading essays are in the form of a "Reading Question" (RQ), where the student is asked to formulate (and attempt to answer) a detailed question based on reading of a scientific paper. This in intended as practice in analytical, critical reading and writing. Detailed comments will be given on each student's essays.

Grading Policy

This course is only to be taken for a grade. Grades will be based on problem sets (50%), and essays on the reading (50%). There will be no final exam.

If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 488 Schmitz, 543-8924 (V/TDD). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to either of us so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for class.