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Keywords:

  • morphological development;
  • sediment transport;
  • dextral diversion;
  • ebbing flow;
  • Yangtze River mouth

Abstract

This paper examines the morphological development of the Yangtze River mouth, which has been diverting southeasterly (dextrally), according to historical (150 years) chart-based digital evolution model and on-site measured tidal flow data. We reveal a significantly narrowing of the northern river mouth branch from formerly >30 km wide to presently 10 km wide due to rapid siltation. Net siltation there, however, decreases gradually, which largely contrasts with the fact that the siltation has shifted to the southern river mouth area, as shown by many newly-emerged estuarine islands, sandy shoals and bifurcated branches. Our data have further demonstrated that the ebb flow that dominates in the study area changes its direction gradually from east to southeast from the inner to outer river mouth area, and its duration is much longer than the flood flow in the inner river mouth area, but nearly equal at the river mouth area. Accordingly, the sediment transport pathway has been diverted from east to southeast. We examine whether the Coriolis Force could explain the dextral diversion of the ebb flow and the altered morphodynamical processes. Although too weak to strengthen the tidal flows, the Coriolis Force can drag the ebb flow southeasterly, and so influence sediment transport paths at the estuarine scale. The Coriolis Force is limited in the inner river mouth, but substantial at and in the outer river mouth area when gradually free of estuarine topographic constraints. The Coriolis Force causes an offset in propagation of in-out flow directions at the river mouth area to form a slack water setting prone to estuarine siltation. Using the present approach also enables explanation of the morphological development of the Holocene Yangtze delta-coast that extends to the southeast. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.