Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
10 Mar 2016
Research article |  | 10 Mar 2016

Seasonal renewal time variability in the Curonian Lagoon caused by atmospheric and hydrographical forcing

Georg Umgiesser, Petras Zemlys, Ali Erturk, Arturas Razinkova-Baziukas, Jovita Mėžinė, and Christian Ferrarin

Abstract. The aim of this study was to investigate the variability of the water exchanges in the Curonian Lagoon based on the hydraulic regime and the atmospheric forcings. A finite element hydrodynamic model has been applied to the Curonian Lagoon to simulate the circulation patterns for 10 years. With the help of a transport–diffusion model, the salinity distribution and the renewal times of the Curonian Lagoon have been investigated when forced by river runoff, wind, and Baltic Sea level fluctuations. The hydrodynamic model has been validated using in situ salinity measurements.

Model results show that the variability depends mainly on seasonal changes in hydrographic forcing and on the dominant wind regimes that prevail over the Curonian Lagoon. Exchanges between the southern and the northern part of the lagoon mostly depend on the wind forcing and are much less influenced by the river discharge.

However, when looking at the water renewal time, the most important factor is the river discharge into the lagoon. Other physical forcings only marginally determine the renewal time, and not even ice cover is able to influence it. Even if ice cover strongly inhibits the exchanges between the southern and northern lagoon, it is basically not able to change the absolute value of the renewal times.

Short summary
The paper explores the importance of physical forcing on the exchange mechanisms and the renewal time in the Curonian Lagoon over 10 years. The influence of ice cover on the exchange rates has been explored. Finally, the influence of water level fluctuations and river discharge has been studied. It has been found that ice cover is surprisingly not very important for changes in renewal time. The single most important factor is river discharge.