On the Development of a Model for Flood-Tidal Deltas and the Hydraulic Efficiency of Associated Tidal Inlets

Monday, 15 December 2014
Mark Borrelli, Theresa L. Smith and Graham S Giese, The Center for Coastal Studies, Provincetown, MA, United States
A highly energetic, rapidly changing system provides the opportunity to study the potential for linking flood-tidal deltas and tidal inlets in order to predict possible future inlet scenarios. These subtidal and intertidal sedimentary deposits are formed by flood-tidal currents and modified by ebb-tidal currents and as such can elucidate past and present hydraulic conditions. Further, within the proposed conceptual model the evolution of these features can lend insight into future system and inlet development.

An ongoing study documented a feedback mechanism linking the primary flood-tidal delta with the migration of the tidal inlet in the study area on Cape Cod, Massachusetts USA. This was based on field surveys (n = 10) of intertidal bedforms, a tidal current velocity survey, and 2 dimensional analyses of aerial photographs from 1938 to the present (n = 32). Three-dimensional analysis of the flood-tidal delta and inlet was conducted using bathymetry from a 2014 vessel-based survey using Phase-Measuring Sidescan Sonar, coupled with bathymetric Lidar from 2007 and 2010.

A conceptual model for this and similar systems is being developed. As seen in the study area material entrained in the longshore sediment transport system becomes incorporated into the swash platform. As a result more sediment is introduced into the harbor during flood tides increasing the size of the flood-tidal delta. If the increase in size reduces the hydraulic efficiency of the ebb-tidal flow a feedback mechanism can result. Ebb-tidal flow is restricted, channels become narrower and deeper, and this channelization leads to an increase in shallower areas in the harbor, which further increases sediment transport during flood-tidal flow. If the cycle continues the system becomes too hydraulically inefficient and a correction occurs, that can be gradual or rapid, either of which has implications for system evolution and/or management. This preliminary model was developed from field observations in the study area. Similar systems worldwide will be examined and discussed for suitability as it pertains to this model.