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[Seminar on July 31] Improving the Representation of Estuarine Processes in Earth System Models

Dr. Qiang Sun

University of Connecticut, USA

Room 303, Keyan Building, IAP

11:00 am, July 31, 2017


The exchange of freshwater between the rivers and estuaries and the open ocean represents a unique form of scale-interaction in the climate system. The local variability in the terrestrial hydrologic cycle is integrated by rivers over potentially large drainage basins (up to semicontinental scales), and is then imposed on the coastal ocean at the scale of a river mouth. Appropriately treating riverine freshwater discharge into the oceans in Earth system models is a challenging problem. Commonly, the river runoff is discharged into the ocean models with zero salinity and arbitrarily distributed either horizontally or vertically over several grid cells. Those approaches entirely neglect estuarine physical processes that modify river inputs before they reach the open ocean. A physically based Estuary Box Model (EBM) is developed to parameterize the mixing processes in estuaries. The EBM has a two-layer structure representing the mixing processes driven by tides and shear flow within the estuaries. It predicts the magnitude of the mixing driven exchange flow, bringing saltier lower-layer shelf water into the estuary to mix with river water prior to discharge to the upper-layer open ocean. The EBM has been tested against observations and high-resolution three-dimensional simulations of the Columbia River estuary, showing excellent agreement in the predictions of the strength of the exchange flow and the salinity of the discharged water, including modulation with the spring-neap tidal cycle. The EBM is implemented globally at every river discharge point of the Community Earth System Model (CESM). The results from experiments are compared with native salinity climatology basic on the World Ocean Database. And it shows the EBM improves the global upper ocean salinity flied. This is the first study to reveal the influences of the estuarine exchange flows in global ocean.

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