Upwelling relaxation and estuarine plumes



[1] After coastal upwelling, the water properties in the nearshore coastal region close to estuaries is determined by the race between the new estuarine plume traveling along the coast and the upwelled front (a marker for the old upwelled plume and the coastal pycnocline) returning to the coast under downwelling winds. Away from an estuary, downwelling winds can return the upwelled front to the coast bringing less dense water nearshore. Near the estuary, the estuarine plume can arrive along the coast and return less dense water to the nearshore region before the upwelled front returns to the coast. Where the plume brings less dense water to the coast first, the plume keeps the upwelled front from returning to the coast. In this region, only the plume and the anthropogenic input and larvae associated with the plume waters influence the nearshore after upwelling. We quantify the extent of the region where the plume is responsible for bringing less dense water to the nearshore and keeping the upwelled front from returning to the coast after upwelling. We successfully tested our predictions against numerical experiments and field observations of the Chesapeake plume near Duck, North Carolina. We argue that this alongshore region exists for other estuaries where the time-integrated upwelling and downwelling wind stresses are comparable.