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Oceanography -- Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.) -- Mathematical models, Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.)


The Lower Columbia River Estuary (LCRE) has undergone extensive modifications since the 19th century. Construction of dams, installation of jetties and dikes, dredging of the navigation channel and filling in of tidal wetlands have all contributed significantly to alterations in tidal dynamics and the flow regime, with consequences for habitat inundation and salinity intrusion. In this talk we discuss the development and implementation of a 19th century flow model for the LCRE, using a digital elevation model based on historic bathymetry. The model has been calibrated with recently rediscovered and digitized tide data from the 19th century. In this research project we look at several river flow scenarios. We are interested in the interaction between river flow and ocean tides, how it has changed in the LCRE since the 19th century and how it affects the river physics. With the model, we focus on the following questions:

  1. How has the spatial structure of salinity changed since the 1890's? Has the salinity intrusion length increased or decreased? Is there a change in residual salinity in some of the bays in the estuary? How have changes to the bathymetric structure of the river affected salinity intrusion?
  2. For the same flow river flow, how have wetland inundation patterns changed? How have changes to the tidal prism ascertained from a temporal analysis of tidal records, affected the amount of land inundated in a tidal cycle and how long that land remains inundated?

Initial results suggest that salinity intrusion patterns have shifted and that wetland inundation patterns have been impacted by the up to 10% increase in the estuary tidal range since the late 19th century.


Presented at the 2014 Columbia River Estuary Workshop: Forging Links in the Columbia River Estuary, in Astoria, Oregon

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