Lencart e Silva, J. D., Lopes, C. L., Picado, A., Sousa, M. C., Dias, J. M., 2014. Tidal dispersion and flushing time in a multiple inlet lagoon. In: Green, A.N. and Cooper, J.A.G. (eds.), Proceedings 13th International Coastal Symposium (Durban, South Africa), Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 70, pp. 598–603, ISSN 0749-0208.
The Ria Formosa is a tidal multi-inlet shallow-water coastal lagoon located in the south of Portugal, subjected to the dry Mediterranean climate. The tide controls the Ria's exchange with the adjacent shelf for most of the hydrological year except for isolated torrential run-off events. Episodes of low hypoxia reported in the literature may be related to the lagoon's flushing time, affecting its shellfish production valued at 20 – 50 million €y−1. Over the past decades several observational and modelling studies presented values for the capacity of the tide to renovate the water inside the Ria. However, these studies lack either the spatial resolution to yield results unaffected by numerical diffusion or analyze a very limited part of the lagoon's territory. In this work, we use a very-high resolution hydrodynamic model to assess the flushing time exclusively due to tidal forcing inside the Ria Formosa. A bi-dimensional implementation of the finite-volume/finite-difference Eulerian Lagrangian hydrodynamic and transport model (ELCIRC) was used, allowing for the local refinement of the computational domain, which best suits the lagoon's complex morphology. The present model configuration was validated for tidal propagation with sea surface elevation collected in 1979/80 at 11 lagoon stations. The validation results show a good agreement between predicted and observed elevations, with root mean square errors lower than 20 cm and skill values higher than 0.98. A set of experiments were carried out by releasing a conservative tracer at different stages of the tide at discrete points of the Ria, where possible environmental hazard hot-spots are located and the flushing e-folding time calculated from the tracer's dilution. The results are discussed taking into account the propagation of the tide in this multi-inlet, meandering topography. Evidence is presented of topographic trapping due to the complex spatial distribution of the phase lags of the semi-diurnal tidal constituents. This evidence explains the significant increase of the flushing time from the inlets to the head of the channels, thus justifying the use of detailed spatial resolution when modelling such a complex system.