Tidal and meteorological forcing of sediment transport in tributary mudflat channels. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Field observations of flow and sediment transport in a tributary channel through intertidal mudflats indicate that suspended sediment was closely linked to advection and dispersion of a tidal salinity front. During calm weather when tidal forcing was dominant, high concentrations of suspended sediment advected up the mudflat channel in the narrow region between salty water from San Francisco Bay and much fresher runoff from the small local watershed. Salinity and suspended sediment dispersed at similar rates through each tidal inundation, such that during receding ebbs the sediment pulse had spread spatially and maximum concentrations had decreased. Net sediment transport was moderately onshore during the calm weather, as asymmetries in stratification due to tidal straining of the salinity front enhanced deposition, particularly during weaker neap tidal forcing. Sediment transport by tidal forcing was periodically altered by winter storms. During storms, strong winds from the south generated wind waves and temporarily increased suspended sediment concentrations. Increased discharge down the tributary channels due to precipitation had more lasting impact on sediment transport, supplying both buoyancy and fine sediment to the system. Net sediment transport depended on the balance between calm weather tidal forcing and perturbations by episodic storms. Net transport in the tributary channel was generally off-shore during storms and during calm weather spring tides, and on-shore during calm weather neap tides.

publication date

  • June 1, 2007