Turning the tide: estuarine bars and mutually evasive ebb- and flood-dominated channels
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Estuaries have perpetually changing and interacting channels and shoals formed by ebb and flood currents, but we lack a descriptive taxonomy and forecasting model. We explore the hypotheses that the great variation of bar and shoal morphologies are explained by similar factors as river bars, namely channel aspect ratio, sediment mobility and limits on bar erosion and chute cutoff caused by cohesive sediment. Here we use remote sensing data and a novel tidal flume setup, the Metronome, to create estuaries or short estuarine reaches from idealized initial conditions, with and without mud supply at the fluvial boundary. Bar width-depth ratios in estuaries are similar to those in braided rivers. In unconfined (cohesionless) experimental estuaries, bar- and channel dynamics increase with increasing river discharge. Ebb- and flood-dominated channels are ubiquitous even in entirely straight sections. The apparent stability of ebb- and flood channels is partly explained by the inherent instability of symmetrical channel bifurcations as in rivers.