• Open Access

Modeling surf zone tracer plumes: 1. Waves, mean currents, and low-frequency eddies



[1] A model that accurately simulates surf zone waves, mean currents, and low-frequency eddies is required to diagnose the mechanisms of surf zone tracer transport and dispersion. In this paper, a wave-resolving time-dependent Boussinesq model is compared with waves and currents observed during five surf zone dye release experiments. In a companion paper, Clark et al. (2011) compare a coupled tracer model to the dye plume observations. The Boussinesq model uses observed bathymetry and incident random, directionally spread waves. For all five releases, the model generally reproduces the observed cross-shore evolution of significant wave height, mean wave angle, bulk directional spread, mean alongshore current, and the frequency-dependent sea surface elevation spectra and directional moments. The largest errors are near the shoreline where the bathymetry is most uncertain. The model also reproduces the observed cross-shore structure of rotational velocities in the infragravity (0.004 < f < 0.03 Hz) and very low frequency (VLF) (0.001 < f < 0.004 Hz) bands, although the modeled VLF energy is 2–3 times too large. Similar to the observations, the dominant contributions to the modeled eddy-induced momentum flux are in the VLF band. These eddies are elliptical near the shoreline and circular in the mid surf zone. The model-data agreement for sea swell waves, low-frequency eddies, and mean currents suggests that the model is appropriate for simulating surf zone tracer transport and dispersion.