Using Lagrangian Coherent Structures to understand coastal water quality

L. A. Fiorentino, M. J. Olascoaga, A. Reniers, Z. Feng, F. J. Beron-Vera, J. H. MacMahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The accumulation of pollutants near the shoreline can result in low quality coastal water with negative effects on human health. To understand the role of mixing by tidal flows in coastal water quality we study the nearshore Lagrangian circulation. Specifically, we reveal Lagrangian Coherent Structures (LCSs), i.e., distinguished material curves which shape global mixing patterns and thus act as skeletons of the Lagrangian circulation. This is done using the recently developed geodesic theory of transport barriers. Particular focus is placed on Hobie Beach, a recreational subtropical marine beach located in Virginia Key, Miami, Florida. According to studies of water quality, Hobie Beach is characterized by high microbial levels. Possible sources of pollution in Hobie Beach include human bather shedding, dog fecal matter, runoff, and sand efflux at high tides. Consistent with the patterns formed by satellite-tracked drifter trajectories, the LCSs extracted from simulated currents reveal a Lagrangian circulation favoring the retention near the shoreline of pollutants released along the shoreline, which can help explain the low quality water registered at Hobie Beach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-149
Number of pages5
JournalContinental Shelf Research
StatePublished - Sep 15 2012


  • Coastal circulation
  • Dynamical systems
  • Lagrangian Coherent Structures
  • Tidal regime
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


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