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Coastal ocean transport patterns in the central Southern California Bight

By
Marlene A. Noble
Marlene A. Noble
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 999, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA
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Kurt J. Rosenberger
Kurt J. Rosenberger
U.S. Geological Survey, 400 Natural Bridges Drive, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
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Peter Hamilton
Peter Hamilton
Science Applications International Corporation, 4900 Waters Edge Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606, USA
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J.P. Xu
J.P. Xu
U.S. Geological Survey, 400 Natural Bridges Drive, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2009

In the past decade, several large programs that monitor currents and transport patterns for periods from a few months to a few years were conducted by a consortium of university, federal, state, and municipal agencies in the central Southern California Bight, a heavily urbanized section of the coastal ocean off the west coast of the United States encompassing Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay, and the Palos Verdes shelf. These programs were designed in part to determine how alongshelf and cross-shelf currents move sediments, pollutants, and suspended material through the region. Analysis of the data sets showed that the current patterns in this portion of the Bight have distinct changes in frequency and amplitude with location, in part because the topography of the shelf and upper slope varies rapidly over small spatial scales. However, because the mean, subtidal, and tidal-current patterns in any particular location were reasonably stable with time, one could determine a regional pattern for these current fields in the central Southern California Bight even though measurements at the various locations were obtained at different times. In particular, because the mean near-surface flows over the San Pedro and Palos Verdes shelves are divergent, near-surface waters from the upper slope tend to carry suspended material onto the shelf in the northwestern portion of San Pedro Bay. Water and suspended material are also carried off the shelf by the mean and subtidal flow fields in places where the orientation of the shelf break changes abruptly. The barotropic tidal currents in the central Southern California Bight flow primarily alongshore, but they have pronounced amplitude variations over relatively small changes in alongshelf location that are not totally predicted by numerical tidal models. Nonlinear internal tides and internal bores at tidal frequencies are oriented more across the shelf. They do not have a uniform transport direction, since they move fine sediment from the shelf to the slope in Santa Monica Bay, but carry suspended material from the mid-shelf to the beach in San Pedro Bay. It is clear that there are a large variety of processes that transport sediments and contaminants along and across the shelf in the central Southern California Bight. However, because these processes have a variety of frequencies and relatively small spatial scales, the dominant transport processes tend to be localized and have dissimilar characteristics even in adjacent regions of this small part of the coastal ocean.

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GSA Special Papers

Earth Science in the Urban Ocean: The Southern California Continental Borderland

Homa J. Lee
Homa J. Lee
U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, USA
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William R. Normark
William R. Normark
U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
454
ISBN print:
9780813724546
Publication date:
January 01, 2009

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