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Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 20, issue 6
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 20, 1095–1112, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Nonlinear processes of Air-Sea/Land interaction: from observations...

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 20, 1095–1112, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 10 Dec 2013

Research article | 10 Dec 2013

Large eddy simulation model for wind-driven sea circulation in coastal areas

A. Petronio1, F. Roman1, C. Nasello2, and V. Armenio1 A. Petronio et al.
  • 1Dipartimento di Ingegneria e Architettura, Università di Trieste, Piazzale Europa 1, 34127 Trieste, Italy
  • 2Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile, Ambientale e Aerospaziale, Università di Palermo, Viale delle Scienze, 90128 Palermo, Italy

Abstract. In the present paper a state-of-the-art large eddy simulation model (LES-COAST), suited for the analysis of water circulation and mixing in closed or semi-closed areas, is presented and applied to the study of the hydrodynamic characteristics of the Muggia bay, the industrial harbor of the city of Trieste, Italy. The model solves the non-hydrostatic, unsteady Navier–Stokes equations, under the Boussinesq approximation for temperature and salinity buoyancy effects, using a novel, two-eddy viscosity Smagorinsky model for the closure of the subgrid-scale momentum fluxes. The model employs: a simple and effective technique to take into account wind-stress inhomogeneity related to the blocking effect of emerged structures, which, in turn, can drive local-scale, short-term pollutant dispersion; a new nesting procedure to reconstruct instantaneous, turbulent velocity components, temperature and salinity at the open boundaries of the domain using data coming from large-scale circulation models (LCM). Validation tests have shown that the model reproduces field measurement satisfactorily. The analysis of water circulation and mixing in the Muggia bay has been carried out under three typical breeze conditions. Water circulation has been shown to behave as in typical semi-closed basins, with an upper layer moving along the wind direction (apart from the anti-cyclonic veering associated with the Coriolis force) and a bottom layer, thicker and slower than the upper one, moving along the opposite direction. The study has shown that water vertical mixing in the bay is inhibited by a large level of stable stratification, mainly associated with vertical variation in salinity and, to a minor extent, with temperature variation along the water column. More intense mixing, quantified by sub-critical values of the gradient Richardson number, is present in near-coastal regions where upwelling/downwelling phenomena occur. The analysis of instantaneous fields has detected the presence of large cross-sectional eddies spanning the whole water column and contributing to vertical mixing, associated with the presence of sub-surface horizontal turbulent structures. Analysis of water renewal within the bay shows that, under the typical breeze regimes considered in the study, the residence time of water in the bay is of the order of a few days. Finally, vertical eddy viscosity has been calculated and shown to vary by a couple of orders of magnitude along the water column, with larger values near the bottom surface where density stratification is smaller.

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