Tidal flushing and wind driven circulation of Ahe atoll lagoon (Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia) from in situ observations and numerical modelling.
To implement a numerical model of atoll lagoon circulation, we characterized first the significant wave height (Hs) regime of the Western Tuamotu Archipelago and the local attenuation due to the protection offered by large atolls in the south Tuamotu. Altimetry satellite data and a WAVEWATCH III two-way nested wave model at 5 km resolution from 2000 to 2010 were used. Correlation between altimetry and model was high (0.88) over the period. According to the wave model, the archipelago inner seas experienced attenuated Hs year-long with a yearly average Hs around 1.3m vs a minimum of 1.6m elsewhere. The island shadow effect is especially significant in the austral winter. In contrast with southern atolls, Western Tuamotu experienced only few days per year of Hs larger than 2.5m generated by very high Hs southern swell, transient western local storms, strong easterly winds, and during the passage of distant hurricanes.