Swell-generated Set-up and Infragravity Wave Propagation Over a Fringing Coral Reef: Implications for Wave-driven Inundation of Atoll Islands

Monday, 15 December 2014
Olivia M Cheriton1, Curt Daron Storlazzi1, Kurt J Rosenberger1, Ellen Quataert2 and Ap van Dongeren2, (1)USGS Pacific Science Ctr, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, (2)Deltares, Delft, Netherlands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is comprised of 1156 islands on 29 low-lying atolls with a mean elevation of 2 m that are susceptible to sea-level rise and often subjected to overwash during large wave events. A 6-month deployment of wave and tide gauges across two shore-normal sections of north-facing coral reef on the Roi-Namur Island on Kwajalein Atoll was conducted during 2013-2014 to quantify wave dynamics and wave-driven water levels on the fringing coral reef. Wave heights and periods on the reef flat were strongly correlated to the water levels. On the fore reef, the majority of wave energy was concentrated in the incident band (5-25 s); due to breaking at the reef crest, however, the wave energy over the reef flat was dominated by infragravity-band (25-250 s) motions. Two large wave events with heights of 6-8 m at 15 s over the fore reef were observed. During these events, infragravity-band wave heights exceeded the incident band wave heights and approximately 1.0 m of set-up was established over the innermost reef flat. This set-up enabled the propagation of large waves across the reef flat, reaching maximum heights of nearly 2 m on the innermost reef flat adjacent to the toe of the beach. XBEACH models of the instrument transects were able to replicate the incident waves, infragravity waves, and wave-driven set-up across the reef when the hydrodynamic roughness of the reef was correctly parameterized. These events led to more than 3 m of wave-driven run-up and inundation of the island that drove substantial morphological change to the beach face.