Tidal fronts and their role in air-sea gas exchange

B. Baschek, D.M. Farmer, and C. Garrett

Journal of Marine Research, 2006. Vol. 64, No. 4.

Tidal fronts are a common feature of many coastal environments. They are characterized by a surface convergence zone that enhances wave breaking and the generation of gas bubbles due to wave-current interaction. The associated downwelling currents carry bubbles to depths of up to 160 m and increase the amount of air that dissolves from them.

An energetic tidal front is formed at the entrance to the Strait of Georgia, BC, Canada, by an hydraulically controlled sill flow with vertical velocities of up to 0.75 m/s. Extensive ship-board measurements during two cruises are interpreted with models of wave-current interaction and gas bubble behavior. The observations suggest that tidal fronts may contribute significantly to the aeration of the subsurface waters in the Fraser Estuary. This process may be also of importance for other coastal environments with plunging sill flows of dense water that deliver aerated surface water to intermediate depths.