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Influence of Salinity, Bottom Topography, and Tides on Locations of Estuarine Turbidity Maxima in Northern San Francisco Bay
D.H. Schoellhamer


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Time series of salinity and suspended-solids concentration measured at four locations and vertical profiles of salinity and suspended-solids concentration measured during 48 water-quality cruises from January 1993 to September 1997 are analyzed to describe the influence of salinity, bottom topography, and tides on locations of estuarine turbidity maxima in northern San Francisco Bay, California. Estuarine turbidity maxima form when salinity is present but they are not associated with a singular salinity. Bottom topography enhances salinity stratification, gravitational circulation and estuarine turbidity maxima formation seaward of sills. The spring/neap tidal cycle affects locations of estuarine turbidity maxima. Salinity stratification in Carquinez Strait, which is seaward of a sill, is greatest during neap tides, which is the only time when tidally averaged suspended-solids concentration in Carquinez Strait was less than that observed landward at Mallard Island. Spring tides cause the greatest vertical mixing and suspended-solids concentration in Carquinez Strait. Therefore, surface estuarine turbidity maxima always were located in or near the Strait (seaward of Middle Ground) during spring tide cruises, regardless of salinity. During neap tides, surface estuarine turbidity maxima always were observed in the landward half of the study area (landward of Middle Ground) and between 0–2 practical salinity units.

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