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Physical Environments - Circulation Contributor: Kindinger
Circulation in a tidal estuary, such as Lake Pontchartrain, is an extremely complicated system. Regional influences, such as fresh water input, tides and winds, set up salinity and temperature gradients and drive circulation. Circulation dynamics are further affected by physical controls such as bathymetry, bottom texture and shoreline morphology. These controls affect wave orbital velocity and energy loss due to bottom friction. This combination of regional and local influences makes it very difficult to accurately characterize circulation in estuarine systems.
As a result of competing mixing and stratifying processes, estuaries are highly dynamic environments, providing considerable scientific and technological challenges to attempt to gain a quantified understanding of them. At the same time, estuaries, and Lake Pontchartrain is no exception are subject to intense, localized impacts by the demands of industrialized societies, being relied upon for waste disposal, fisheries, shipping, and recreation. By understanding the complex interactions and characterizing the physical processes within this estuarine system we can better predict the impact of these outside forces.
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