Modelling sand wave migration in shallow shelf seas

Attila Nemeth, Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher, Huib J. de Vriend

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Sand waves form a prominent regular pattern in the offshore seabed of sandy shallow seas. The positions of sand-wave crests and troughs slowly change in time. Sand waves are usually assumed to migrate in the direction of the residual current. This paper considers the physical mechanisms that may cause sand waves to migrate and methods to quantify the associated migration rates. We carried out a theoretical study based on the assumption that sand waves evolve as free instabilities of the system. A linear stability analysis was then performed on a 2DV morphological model describing the interaction between the vertically varying water motion and an erodible bed in a shallow sea. Here, we disrupted the basic tidal symmetry by choosing a combination of a steady current (M0) and a sinusoidal tidal motion (M2) as the basic flow. We allowed for two different physical mechanisms to generate the steady current: a sea surface wind stress and a pressure gradient. The results show that similar sand waves develop for both flow conditions and that these sand waves migrate slowly in the direction of the residual flow. The rates of migration and wavelengths found in this work agree with theoretical and empirical values reported in the literature.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)2795-2806
JournalContinental shelf research
Issue number18-19
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • METIS-124028
  • IR-41767

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