Research Topic

River Plumes and Estuaries

About this Research Topic

This Research Topic focuses on interactions between the terrestrial freshwater discharge and coastal ocean from the initial mixing and transformation of riverine runoff in estuaries through the formation of buoyant river plumes to their spreading both along- and across-shelf in the far-field regions. The Research Topic also addresses the related transport of suspended and dissolved river-borne matter, as well as its influence on physical, biological, and geochemical processes in coastal and shelf areas.

River estuaries are areas where freshwater discharge initially interacts with seawater. The related mixing processes of riverine runoff with seawater in estuaries define the source properties for river plumes, which in turn determine the plume's structure and govern its subsequent spreading and mixing on the shelf. The intensity of estuarine mixing varies from negligible, when mostly undiluted freshwater discharge inflows directly into a coastal sea, to dominant, which results in significant dilution of river discharge in well-mixed enclosed basins before being released on the shelf.

River plumes play an important role in land-ocean interactions. Despite their relatively small surface area and volume as compared to the adjacent coastal sea, they significantly influence global fluxes of buoyancy, heat, terrigenous sediments, nutrients, and anthropogenic pollutants, which are discharged to the coastal ocean with continental runoff. River plumes are characterized by strong spatial inhomogeneity and high temporal variability caused by external forcing and mixing processes. Regional features (delta/estuary, enclosed bay/open sea, shoreline, bathymetry, etc.) also significantly influence the morphology and behavior of river plumes. As a result, dynamics and variability of river plumes are key factors for understanding mechanisms of spreading, transformation, and redistribution of continental discharge and river-borne constituents in the coastal sea and their influence on the adjacent continental shelf.

In this Research Topic, we welcome submissions that address recent advances in understanding mechanisms that govern dynamics and variability of river plumes and estuarine processes based on observations (both in-situ and remotely sensed), numerical or laboratory modeling, and theory. We also welcome studies focused on the influence of freshwater discharge and river plumes on stratification and circulation in estuaries and coastal seas, transport and fate of river-borne suspended and dissolved constituents (nutrients, terrigenous sediments, anthropogenic pollutants, litter), impact on coastal nutrient cycle and food webs, sediment deposition and seabed morphology.


Keywords: river plumes, estuaries, coastal processes, buoyancy currents, land-ocean interaction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

This Research Topic focuses on interactions between the terrestrial freshwater discharge and coastal ocean from the initial mixing and transformation of riverine runoff in estuaries through the formation of buoyant river plumes to their spreading both along- and across-shelf in the far-field regions. The Research Topic also addresses the related transport of suspended and dissolved river-borne matter, as well as its influence on physical, biological, and geochemical processes in coastal and shelf areas.

River estuaries are areas where freshwater discharge initially interacts with seawater. The related mixing processes of riverine runoff with seawater in estuaries define the source properties for river plumes, which in turn determine the plume's structure and govern its subsequent spreading and mixing on the shelf. The intensity of estuarine mixing varies from negligible, when mostly undiluted freshwater discharge inflows directly into a coastal sea, to dominant, which results in significant dilution of river discharge in well-mixed enclosed basins before being released on the shelf.

River plumes play an important role in land-ocean interactions. Despite their relatively small surface area and volume as compared to the adjacent coastal sea, they significantly influence global fluxes of buoyancy, heat, terrigenous sediments, nutrients, and anthropogenic pollutants, which are discharged to the coastal ocean with continental runoff. River plumes are characterized by strong spatial inhomogeneity and high temporal variability caused by external forcing and mixing processes. Regional features (delta/estuary, enclosed bay/open sea, shoreline, bathymetry, etc.) also significantly influence the morphology and behavior of river plumes. As a result, dynamics and variability of river plumes are key factors for understanding mechanisms of spreading, transformation, and redistribution of continental discharge and river-borne constituents in the coastal sea and their influence on the adjacent continental shelf.

In this Research Topic, we welcome submissions that address recent advances in understanding mechanisms that govern dynamics and variability of river plumes and estuarine processes based on observations (both in-situ and remotely sensed), numerical or laboratory modeling, and theory. We also welcome studies focused on the influence of freshwater discharge and river plumes on stratification and circulation in estuaries and coastal seas, transport and fate of river-borne suspended and dissolved constituents (nutrients, terrigenous sediments, anthropogenic pollutants, litter), impact on coastal nutrient cycle and food webs, sediment deposition and seabed morphology.


Keywords: river plumes, estuaries, coastal processes, buoyancy currents, land-ocean interaction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 March 2021 Abstract
31 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 March 2021 Abstract
31 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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