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A Model Study on the Summertime Distribution of River Waters in Long Island Sound

Deignan-Schmidt, StevenR., Whitney, MichaelM.
Estuaries and coasts 2018 v.41 no.4 pp. 1002-1020
basins, estuaries, freshwater, hydrologic models, river water, rivers, runoff, shorelines, storms, stream flow, summer, tracer techniques, watersheds, Connecticut, Connecticut River
Long Island Sound (LIS), a large urban estuary in the northeastern USA, receives freshwater from many rivers along its northern shore. The size of these rivers varies widely in terms of basin area and discharge. The Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) was applied with conservative passive tracers to identify the distribution, mixing, freshwater residence times, and storm response for all of LIS’s river systems during the summer of 2013. A watershed model was applied to overcome the lack of adequate river discharge observations for coastal watersheds. The Connecticut River was the largest contributor to riverine freshwater throughout the estuary despite its entry point near the mouth. The Connecticut River strengthened bulk stratification in the eastern LIS the most but acted to weaken stratification near the mouths of other rivers and in far western LIS by freshening waters at depth. The Housatonic and Hudson Rivers had the strongest influence on stratification in central and western LIS, respectively. Smaller coastal rivers were the most influential in strengthening stratification near the southwestern Connecticut shoreline. The influence of small coastal rivers was amplified after a major storm due to shorter storm response times relative to the larger rivers. Overall, river water was close to a well-mixed state throughout LIS, but more stratified near river mouths. Freshwater residence time estimates, meanwhile, indicated monthly to multi-seasonal time scales (43 to 180 days) and grew longer with greater distance from the LIS mouth.