Geophysical Research Letters

Persistent sand bars explained by geodynamic effects



[1] The persistent nature of intertidal sand bars has been the subject of much speculation concerning the hydrodynamic mechanisms involved, but its origin remains enigmatic. Here, we introduce salient geophysics in contrast to the physics of fluids above the sediments. The geophysical evidence combined with theoretical modeling and analysis demonstrates that the geodynamic processes ensuing during exposure periods have a profound impact, yielding the persistent nature of the intertidal bars under severe hydrodynamic forcing which would otherwise lead to unstable bar behavior. The feedback between the effects of the dynamics of suction, i.e. negative pore water pressure relative to atmospheric air pressure, and sediment transport and morphology is found to play a crucial role in the intertidal bar morphodynamics. Our finding may fundamentally alter the current perspective, leading to a new level of understanding, of sediment transport and bar behavior at waterfronts that are ubiquitous in rivers, estuaries, and coastal seas.