On tide propagation in convergent estuaries


  • Stefano Lanzoni,

  • Giovanni Seminara


We revisit the problem of one-dimensional tide propagation in convergent estuaries considering four limiting cases defined by the relative intensity of dissipation versus local inertia in the momentum equation and by the role of channel convergence in the mass balance. In weakly dissipative estuaries, tide propagation is essentially a weakly nonlinear phenomenon where overtides are generated in a cascade process such that higher harmonics have increasingly smaller amplitudes. Furthermore, nonlinearity gives rise to a seaward directed residual current. As channel convergence increases, the distortion of the tidal wave is enhanced and both tidal wave speed and wave lenght increase. The solution loses its wavy character when the estuary reaches its “critical convergence”; above such convergence the weakly dissipative limit becomes meaningless. Finally, when channel convergence is strong or moderate, weakly dissipative estuaries turn out to be ebb dominated. In strongly dissipative estuaries, tide propagation becomes a strongly nonlinear phenomenon that displays peaking and sharp distortion of the current profile, and that invariably leads to flood dominance. As the role of channel convergence is increasingly counteracted by the diffusive effect of spatial variations of the current velocity on flow continuity, tidal amplitude experiences a progressively decreasing amplification while tidal wave speed increases. We develop a nonlinear parabolic approximation of the full de Saint Venant equations able to describe this behaviour. Finally, strongly convergent and moderately dissipative estuaries enhance wave peaking as the effect of local inertia is increased. The full de Saint Venant equations are the appropriate model to treat this case.