Observations of the vertical structure of broad band tidal currents were obtained at two energetic inlets. Each experiment took place over a 4 week period, the first at Hampton Inlet in southeastern New Hampshire, USA, in the Fall of 2011, and the second at New River Inlet in southern North Carolina, USA, in the spring of 2012. The temporal variation and vertical structure of the currents were observed at each site with 600 kHz and 1200 kHz RDI Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) deployed on low-profile bottom tripods in 7.5 and 12.5 m water depths near the entrance to Hampton Inlet, and in 8 and 9 m water depth within and outside New River Inlet, respectively. In addition, a Nortek Aquapro ADCP was mounted on a jetted pipe in about 2.5 m water depth on the flank of the each inlet channel. Flows within the Hampton/Seabrook Inlet were dominated by semi-diurnal tides ranging 2.5 - 4 m in elevation, with velocities exceeding 2.5 m/s. Flows within New River inlet were also semi-diurnal with tides ranging about 1 – 1.5 m in elevation and with velocities exceeding 1.5 m/s. Vertical variation in the flow structure at the dominant tidal frequency are examined as a function of location within and near the inlet. Outside the inlet, velocities vary strongly over the vertical, with a nearly linear decay from the surface to near the bottom. The coherence between the upper most velocity bin and the successively vertically separated bins drops off quickly with depth, with as much as 50% coherence decay over the water column. The phase relative to the uppermost velocity bin shifts over depth, with as much as 40 deg phase lag over the vertical, with bottom velocities leading the surface. Offshore, rotary coefficients indicate a stable ellipse orientation with rotational directions consistent over the vertical. At Hampton, the shallower ADCP, but still outside the inlet, shows a rotational structure that changes sign in the vertical indicating a sense of rotation at the bottom that is opposite to that at the surface. Within the inlet, the flow is more aligned with the channel, the decay in amplitude over the vertical is diminished, the coherence and phase structure is nearly uniform, and the rotary coefficients indicate no sense of rotation in the flow. The observations are qualitatively consistent with behavior described by Prandle (1982) for shallow water tidal flows.

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Journal of Coastal Research


65, Special Issue




Coastal Education and Research Foundation

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article