A study of the dynamics of a marine sandwave



The movement of the crest of a sandwave was studied using cross-sectional profiles obtained from lines of sea-bed reference stakes. Measurements were made, over a six month period, before and after flood and ebb tides in relation to both spring and neap tides and surface wave conditions. Additional observations were obtained on a daily basis, over an equinoctial neap to spring to neap tidal period, in conjunction with boundary layer flow measurements. Tracer experiments were conducted to study the dispersion of sediment from the sandwave crest.

The results showed that the sandwave was relatively stable at neap tides, whilst at higher tidal ranges, the crest position oscillated with successive flood and ebb tides. Net flank erosion occurred on the less steep, upstream slope during the dominant ebb tide. This, together with increased deposition on the lee slope, caused the crest to advance. It was not possible to extrapolate sandwave migration over long periods as the tidal dynamic trends were interrupted by wind stress and surface wave activity. High particle orbital velocities, generated at the sea-bed by storm waves, caused major reductions in crestal heights.

Calculated volumes of sediment eroded and accreted were used, with boundary layer flow measurements, to calculate threshold velocities for the movement of the sediment and sediment transport rates.