Sorted bedform pattern evolution: Persistence, destruction and self-organized intermittency



[1] We investigate the long-term evolution of inner continental shelf sorted bedform patterns. Numerical modeling suggests that a range of behaviors are possible, from pattern persistence to spatial-temporal intermittency. Sorted bedform persistence results from a robust sorting feedback that operates when the seabed features a sufficient concentration of coarse material. In the absence of storm events, pattern maturation processes such as defect dynamics and pattern migration tend to cause the burial of coarse material and excavation of fine material, leading to the fining of the active layer. Vertical sorting occurs until a critical state of active layer coarseness is reached. This critical state results in the local cessation of the sorting feedback, leading to a self-organized spatially intermittent pattern, a hallmark of observed sorted bedforms. Bedforms in shallow conditions and those subject to high wave climates may be temporally intermittent features as a result of increased wave orbital velocity during storms. Erosion, or deposition of bimodal sediment, similarly leads to a spatially intermittent pattern, with individual coarse domains exhibiting temporal intermittence. Recurring storm events cause coarsening of the seabed (strengthening the sorting feedback) and the development of large wavelength patterns. Cessation of storm events leads to the superposition of storm (large wavelength) and inter-storm (small wavelength) patterns and spatial heterogeneity of pattern modes.