When freshwater debouches into an adjacent ocean, an anticyclonic eddy (bulge) is formed in front of the river mouth. It is well known that a bulge growing offshore (ballooning) hardly reaches a steady state in the absence of either ambient currents or wind forcing. This study provides a physical interpretation for the ballooning of river-plume bulges by conducting numerical experiments in which a river plume is induced by a coastal freshwater source. Part of the freshwater released to the model ocean undergoes inertial instability. Near-inertial oscillations are predominant when disturbances are not forced in ambient waters of the river plume. These isotropic disturbances arc amplified by inertial instability, so that unstabilized freshwater can move in arbitrary directions. Thus, unstabilized freshwater does not need to move toward the coastal boundary current on the right-hand side of the river mouth. Freshwater unstabilized for a long time can stay in the bulge for a long time. Unstabilized freshwater accumulates gradually in the bulge, and so ballooning occurs. When the direction of disturbances is prescribed in ambient waters, unstabilized freshwater is forced to move in the same direction. Thereby, the motion of unstabilized freshwater is restricted in the alongshore direction when background disturbances are induced by alongshore tidal currents. It is therefore concluded that tidal currents play a role in stabilizing the offshore growth of river-plume bulges in coastal and shelf waters.
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