Dissolved oxygen response to wind-inflow interactions in a stratified reservoir

Botelho, Daniel A., Jörg Imberger

Limnol. Oceanogr., 52(5), 2007, 2027-2052 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2007.52.5.2027

ABSTRACT: Results of a field campaign and numerical simulations are used to show how physical mechanisms impose length scales and timescales that determine the dominant biogeochemical process. As an example, the dynamics of the Snake River inflows into Brownlee Reservoir is investigated to explain the onset and maintenance of an oxygen-depleted region (the oxygen block) in the surface layer of the upstream part of the reservoir. The oxygen block was located in a region of the reservoir in which the surface layer was warmer as a result of smaller wind stresses and reduced evaporation rates. Numerical simulations reproduced the hydrodynamic field observations resulting from inflow, outflow, wind stress, and atmospheric heat fluxes. When the wind stress opposed the inflow, the surface layer was arrested, forming a zone of convergence, stagnating the fluid and allowing the biological oxygen demand in the water to deplete the dissolved oxygen (DO) in the surface water; direct measurements showed that vertical mixing was small and contributed only marginally to the oxygen depletion. Net DO production in the water column was consistent with the observed variation with the buoyant inflow pattern, that is, a sink during overflows and overcast days and a source during interflows and intense sunlight. These observations provided further evidence that the water in this region was biologically isolated as confirmed by a scaling analysis. Modern numerical hydrodynamic simulations have reached a level of accuracy where they may be used to identify and quantify ecological niches.

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