Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


College of Engineering


Stefan Talke

Advisor Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


There is a growing need to better understand the dynamics of small and medium Mediterranean low-inflow estuaries (LIEs), which is addressed here by characterizing a heat budget and associated heat transfer processes. A one-dimensional deterministic model was developed from the advection-diffusion equation and applied to Morro Bay, CA using 15-minute water property (temperature, salinity, pressure) and meteorological (wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, irradiance) data collected over a two-year period (2020 – 2021). Seasonal variability is observed in meteorological components, water temperature, and salinity. There is strong seasonal variability in head-mouth temperature and salinity differences. Temperature differences peak in summer (daily mean 2.52 ºC, June – Sept.). Daily average salinity difference is 0.33 (hyposaline, Sept. – Apr.) with strongest gradients observed during the winter storm season following enhanced freshwater discharge. Inverse salinity develops intermittently May – Aug. Subtidal heat flux is dominated by surface heating, whose daily average is always positive (heat input). The developed model does not quantify adequate heat export from the estuary, however, a sensitivity analysis indicates that diffusive flux may be a significant heat export component. Excess heat appears to be exported to the ocean, allowing ocean-estuary temperatures to remain similar. Characterizing estuarine dynamics like these enables us to predict how Morro Bay, and other similar estuarine systems, may respond to long and short-term environmental changes, and how these responses influence estuarine circulation and environmental health.