Modeled three-dimensional currents and eddies on an alongshore-variable barred beach

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Baker, Christine M.
Moulton, Melissa
Raubenheimer, Britt
Elgar, Steve
Kumar, Nirnimesh
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Surf zone
Wave breaking
Circulation in the nearshore region, which is critical for material transport along the coast and between the surf zone and the inner shelf, includes strong vortical motions. The horizontal length scales and vertical structure associated with vortical motions are not well documented on alongshore-variable beaches. Here, a three-dimensional phase-resolving numerical model, Simulating WAves till SHore (SWASH), is compared with surfzone waves and flows on a barred beach, and is used to investigate surfzone eddies. Model simulations with measured bathymetry reproduce trends in the mean surfzone circulation patterns, including alongshore currents and rip current circulation cells observed for offshore wave heights from 0.5 to 2.0 m and incident wave directions from 0 to 15° relative to shore normal. The length scales of simulated eddies, quantified using the alongshore wavenumber spectra of vertical vorticity, suggest that increasing wave directional spread intensifies small-scale eddies ( (10) m). Simulations with bathymetric variability ranging from alongshore uniform to highly alongshore variable indicate that large-scale eddies ( (100) m) may be enhanced by surfzone bathymetric variability, whereas small-scale eddies ( (10) m) are less dependent on bathymetric variability. The simulated vertical dependence of the magnitude and mean length scale (centroid) of the alongshore wavenumber spectra of vertical vorticity and very low-frequency (f ≈ 0.005 Hz) currents is weak in the outer surf zone, and decreases toward the shoreline. The vertical dependence in the simulations may be affected by the vertical structure of turbulence, mean shear, and bottom boundary layer dynamics.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2021. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 126(7), (2021): e2020JC016899,
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Baker, C. M., Moulton, M., Raubenheimer, B., Elgar, S., & Kumar, N. (2021). Modeled three-dimensional currents and eddies on an alongshore-variable barred beach. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(7), e2020JC016899.
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