The landward and seaward mechanisms of fine-sediment transport across intertidal flats in the shallow-water region—A numerical investigation

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Hsu, Tian-Jian
Chen, Shih-Nan
Ogston, Andrea S.
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This study investigates transport of fine sediment across idealized intertidal flats with emphasis on resolving processes at the tidal edge, which is defined as the very shallow region of the land-water interface. We first utilize a two-dimensional, vertical numerical model solving the non-hydrostatic Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equations with a k-ε turbulence closure. The numerical model adopts the Volume of Fluid method to simulate the wetting and drying region of the intertidal flat. The model is demonstrated to be able to reproduce the classic theory of tidal-flat hydrodynamics of Friedrichs and Aubrey (1996) and to predict the turbidity at the tidal edge that is similar, qualitatively, to prior field observations. The Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) is also utilized to simulate the same idealized tidal flat to evaluate its applicability in this environment. We demonstrate that when a small critical depth (hcrit =2 cm) in the wetting and drying scheme is adopted, ROMS is able to predict the main features of hydrodynamics and sediment-transport processes similar to that predicted by the RANS-VOF model. When driving the models with a symmetric tidal forcing, both models predict landward transport on the lower and upper flat and seaward transport in the subtidal region. When the very shallow region of the tidal edge is well resolved, both models predict an asymmetry of tidal velocity magnitude between the flood and the ebb that may encourage landward sediment transport on the flat. Further model simulation suggests that the predicted landward transport of sediment on the flat is mainly due to the settling-lag effect while the asymmetry of tidal velocity magnitude may add a lesser but non-negligible amount. When the bed erosion is limited by the availability of soft mud, the predicted transport direction becomes landward in both the subtidal region and on the flat. These results suggest that the tidal flow generally encourages landward transport while significant seaward transport may be caused by other mechanisms. Comparisons with field observations show similarities in the net landward transport on the flat and enhanced stresses and suspended-sediment concentrations near the very shallow region of the tidal edge. The field results also indicate significant transport of sediment occurs through the channels, as a function of three-dimensional processes, which are not incorporated in the present idealized modeling.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2011. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Continental Shelf Research 60 Suppl. (2013): S85-S98, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2012.02.003.
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