The variability of estuarine residence times is elucidated through accurate, diagnostic numerical tracking of a large number of particles, complemented with statistical analysis. Residence times are shown to have strong spatial and temporal variability, which is accentuated by exchanges between the estuary and the coastal ocean due to chaotic stirring at the mouth. The concept of a single residence time per estuary, while convenient from both ecological and engineering viewpoints, is therefore shown to be an oversimplification. Maps of residence times and cumulative histograms are examined as alternatives. The former are attractive only for once-through tracers, while the latter appear useful over a broader range of tracer characteristics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology