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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Effect of tides on mouth bar morphology and hydrodynamics

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Abstract

[1] Mouth bars are morphological units important for deltas, estuaries, or rivers debouching into the sea. Several processes affect the formation of these deposits. This paper focuses on the role of tides on shaping mouth bars, presenting both hydrodynamic and morphodynamic results. The effect of tides is analyzed in two end-member configurations: a river with a small tidal discharge compared to the fluvial discharge (fluvial dominated) and a river with a very large tidal discharge (tidal dominated). Mouth bar formation is analyzed using the coupled hydrodynamic and morphodynamic model Delft3D. The presence of tides influences the hydrodynamics of the jet exiting the river mouth and causes an increase in the averaged jet spreading. At low tide the lower water depth in the basin promotes a drawdown water profile in the river and an accelerated flow near the mouth. The resulting velocity field is characterized by residual currents affecting growth and final shape of the mouth bar. Simulations indicate that mouth deposits are characterized by the presence of two channels for negligible tidal discharge, whereas three principal channels are present in the tidal-dominated case, with a central channel typical of tidal inlets. On the basis of our numerical analyses, we present a robust criterion for the occurrence of mouth deposits with three channels. Trifurcations form when the tidal discharge is large with respect to the fluvial one and the tidal amplitude is small compared to the water depth. Finally, predicted mouth bar morphologies are compared with good agreement to river mouths in the Gulf of Mexico, USA.

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