The characteristics and dynamics of wave-driven flow across a platform coral reef in the Red Sea Academic Article uri icon


  • Current dynamics across a platform reef in the Red Sea near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are examined using 18 months of current profile, pressure, surface wave, and wind observations. The platform reef is 700 m long, 200 m across with spatial and temporal variations in water depth over the reef ranging from 0.6 to 1.6 m. Surface waves breaking at the seaward edge of the reef cause a 2–10 cm setup of sea level that drives cross-reef currents of 5–20 cm s?1. Bottom stress is a significant component of the wave setup balance in the surf zone. Over the reef flat, where waves are not breaking, the cross-reef pressure gradient associated with wave setup is balanced by bottom stress. The quadratic drag coefficient for the depth-average flow decreases with increasing water depth from Cda?=?0.17 in 0.4 m of water to Cda?=?0.03 in 1.2 m of water. The observed dependence of the drag coefficient on water depth is consistent with open-channel flow theory and a hydrodynamic roughness of zo?=?0.06 m. A simple one-dimensional model driven by incident surface waves and wind stress accurately reproduces the observed depth-averaged cross-reef currents and a portion of the weaker along-reef currents over the focus reef and two other Red Sea platform reefs. The model indicates the cross-reef current is wave forced and the along-reef current is partially wind forced.

publication date

  • February 2016