Hypoxia modeling in Corpus Christi Bay using a hydrologic information system
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Hypoxia is frequently detected during summer in Corpus Christi Bay, Texas, and causes significant harm to benthic organism population and diversity. Hypoxia is associated with the density stratification in the Bay but the cause of stratification is uncertain. To support the study of hypoxia and stratification, a cyberinfrastructure based on the CUAHSI (Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc) Hydrologic Information System (HIS) is implemented. HIS unites the sensor networks in the Bay by providing a standard data language and protocol for transferring data. Thus hypoxia-related data from multiple sources can be compiled into a structured database. In Corpus Christi Bay, salinity data collected from many locations and times are synthesized into a three-dimensional space-time continuum using geostatistical methods. The three dimensions are the depth, the distance along a transect line, and time. The kriged salinity concentration in space and time illuminates the pattern of movement of a saline gravity current along the bottom of the Bay. The travel time of a gravity current in the Bay is estimated to be on the order of one week and the speed is on the order of 1 km per day. Statistical study of high-resolution wind data shows that the stratification pattern in the Bay is related to the occurrence of strong, southeasterly winds in the 5 days prior to the observation. This relationship supports the hypothesis that stratification is caused by the wind initiating hypersaline gravity currents which flow from Laguna Madre into Corpus Christi Bay. An empirical physical hypoxia model is created that tracks the fate and transport of the gravity currents. The model uses wind and water quality data from real-time sensors published by HIS to predict the extent and duration of hypoxic regions in the Bay. Comparison of model results with historical data from 2005 to 2008 shows that wind-driven gravity currents can explain the spatially heterogeneous patterns of hypoxic zones in Corpus Christi Bay.