Why Do Some Estuaries Close: A Model of Estuary Entrance Morphodynamics.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Sarah Louise McSweeney1, David M Kennedy2 and Ian Rutherfurd2, (1)University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia, (2)University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
Intermittently Closed/Open Coastal Lakes/Lagoons (ICOLLs) are a form of wave-dominated, microtidal estuary that experience periodic closure in times of low river flow. ICOLL entrance morphodynamics are complex due to the interaction between wave, tidal and fluvial processes. Managers invest substantial funds to artificially open ICOLLs as they flood surrounding property and infrastructure, and have poor water quality. Existing studies examine broad scale processes but do not identify the main drivers of entrance condition. In this research, the changes in entrance geomorphology were surveyed before and after artificial entrance openings in three ICOLLs in Victoria, Australia. Changes in morphology were related to continuous measures of sediment volume, water level, tide and wave energy. A six-stage quantitative phase model of entrance geomorphology and hydrodynamics is presented to illustrate the spatio-temporal variability in ICOLL entrance morphodynamics. Phases include: breakout; channel expansion with rapid outflow; open with tidal exchange; initial berm rebuilding with tidal attenuation; partial berm recovery with rising water levels; closed with perched water levels. Entrance breakout initiates incision of a pilot channel to the ocean, whereby basin water levels then decline and channel expansion as the headcut migrates landwards. Peak outflow velocities of 5 m/s-3 were recorded and channel dimensions increased over 6 hrs to 3.5 m deep and 140 m wide. When tidal, a clear semi-diurnal signal is superimposed upon an otherwise stable water level. Deep-water wave energy was transferred 1.8 km upstream of the rivermouth with bores present in the basin. Berm rebuilding occurred by littoral drift and cross-shore transport once outflow ceased and microscale bedform features, particularly antidunes, contributed to sediment progradation. Phase duration is dependant on how high the estuary was perched above mean sea level, tidal prism extent, and onshore sediment supply. High offshore wave height and frequency, in addition to littoral drift magnitude, were main drivers of closure. This study presents a predictive model of entrance morphodynamics whereby managers can determine proximity to natural closure or opening, and as a result identify whether implementing an artificial opening is worthwhile.