Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
  • Open Access

Modeling surf zone tracer plumes: 2. Transport and dispersion



[1] Five surf zone dye tracer releases from the HB06 experiment are simulated with a tracer advection diffusion model coupled to a Boussinesq surf zone model (funwaveC). Model tracer is transported and stirred by currents and eddies and diffused with a breaking wave eddy diffusivity, set equal to the breaking wave eddy viscosity, and a small (0.01 m2 s−1) background diffusivity. Observed and modeled alongshore parallel tracer plumes, transported by the wave driven alongshore current, have qualitatively similar cross-shore structures. Although the model skill for mean tracer concentration is variable (from negative to 0.73) depending upon release, cross-shore integrated tracer moments (normalized by the cross-shore tracer integral) have consistently high skills (≈0.9). Modeled and observed bulk surf zone cross-shore diffusivity estimates are also similar, with 0.72 squared correlation and skill of 0.4. Similar to the observations, the model bulk (absolute) cross-shore diffusivity is consistent with a mixing length parameterization based on low-frequency (0.001–0.03 Hz) eddies. The model absolute cross-shore dispersion is dominated by stirring from surf zone eddies and does not depend upon the presence of the breaking wave eddy diffusivity. Given only the bathymetry and incident wave field, the coupled Boussinesq-tracer model qualitatively reproduces the observed cross-shore absolute tracer dispersion, suggesting that the model can be used to study surf zone tracer dispersion mechanisms.