loading page

Warm and cool nearshore plumes connecting the surf zone to the inner shelf
  • Melissa Moulton,
  • C Chris Chickadel,
  • Jim Thomson
Melissa Moulton
Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington

Corresponding Author:mmoulton@uw.edu

Author Profile
C Chris Chickadel
University of Washington
Author Profile
Jim Thomson
University of Washington
Author Profile


Cross-shore transport of larvae, pollutants, and sediment between the surf zone and the inner shelf is important for coastal water quality and ecosystems. Rip currents are known to be a dominant pathway for exchange, but the effects of horizontal temperature and salinity gradients are not well understood. Airborne visible and infrared imagery performed on the California coast show warm and cool plumes driven by rip currents in the surf zone and extending onto the shelf, with temperature differences of approximately 1$^\circ$C. The airborne imagery and modeled temperatures and tracers indicate that warm plumes exhibit more lateral spreading and transport material in a buoyant near-surface layer, whereas cool plumes move offshore in a subsurface layer. The average cross-shore extent of warm plumes at the surface is approximately one surfzone width larger than for cool plumes. Future work may explore the sensitivity of nearshore plumes to density patterns, wave forcing, and bathymetry.
28 May 2021Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 48 issue 10. 10.1029/2020GL091675