The cross-sectional shape of tidal sandbanks: modeling and observations

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To improve our understanding of tidal sandbank dynamics, we have developed a nonlinear morphodynamic model. A crucial property of the model is that it fully resolves the dynamics on the fast (tidal) timescale, allowing for asymmetric tidal flow with an M0, M2, and M4 component. This approach, extending earlier research on the formation of tidal sandbanks, leads to equilibrium profiles. Their heights (60-90% of the water depth) and shapes are controlled by the mode of sediment transport and the hydrodynamic conditions. Bed load transport under symmetrical tidal conditions leads to high spiky banks. Several mechanisms tend to lower and smooth these profiles, such as the relaxation of suspended sediment, wind wave stirring, and tidal asymmetry. This last causes the profiles to be asymmetric, as well. The morphodynamic equilibrium expresses a tidally averaged balance between a destabilizing flux due to fluid drag and the downslope transport induced by both tidal flow and wind wave stirring. The modeled profiles are in fair agreement with observations from the North Sea.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberF02003
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of geophysical research. Earth surface
Issue numberF2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • IR-47366
  • METIS-217753


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