The hydrodynamics, salinity circulation, and transport of suspended fine sediment from major rivers on the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) were simulated with the numerical model H3D. Tides, river inflow, wind, and heat exchanges were used to drive the three-dimensional baroclinic model. Tide propagation in the northern Gulf and seasonality in the sediment plume advection from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers into the GOM were well represented in the model. The similarity between the model's results and the sediment plume as seen in MODIS satellite images and the salinity structure as observed in previous studies is demonstrated. This qualitatively valid model is used for initial guidance in design of new Mississippi River (MR) diversions by studying the effects of five conceptual MR diversions on the fate of its suspended fine material. The diversions were positioned halfway between Port Sulphur and Venice, southeast Louisiana. The scenario transporting 70% of the MR to the west and 30% to the east of the delta presents the best configuration in terms of retention of sediment within the continental shelf. This configuration redirects the main sediment and freshwater flow from the river to the nearshore and the upper continental shelf with the least losses to deeper GOM waters. Given the local dominant westward wind regime, increased discharges diverted to the east will increase the amount of sediment that travels west around the MR birdfoot delta and over the Mississippi Canyon, with a higher chance of being lost to deeper waters.
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Vol. 26 • No. 2