Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 287–305 | Cite as

Large-scale bedforms induced by supercritical flows and wave–wave interference in the intertidal zone (Cap Ferret, France)

  • Romain VaucherEmail author
  • Bernard Pittet
  • Thomas Humbert
  • Serge Ferry


The Cap Ferret sand spit is situated along the wave-dominated, tidally modulated Atlantic coast of western France, characterized by a semidiurnal macrotidal range. It displays peculiar dome-like bedforms that can be observed at low tide across the intertidal zone. These bedforms exhibit a wavelength of ca. 1.2 m and an elevation of ca. 30 cm. They occur only when the incident wave heights reach 1.5–2 m. The internal stratifications are characterized by swaley-like, sub-planar, oblique-tangential, oblique-tabular, as well as hummocky-like stratifications. The tabular and tangential stratifications comprise prograding oblique sets (defined as foresets and backsets) that almost always show variations in their steepness. Downcutting into the bottomsets of the oblique-tangential stratifications is common. The sets of laminae observed in the bedforms share common characteristics with those formed by supercritical flows in flume experiments of earlier studies. These peculiar bedforms are observed at the surf–swash transition zone where the backwash flow reaches supercritical conditions. This type of flow can explain their internal architecture but not their general dome-like (three-dimensional) morphology. Wave–wave interference induced by the geomorphology (i.e. tidal channel) of the coastal environment is proposed as explanation for the localized formation of such bedforms. This study highlights that the combination of supercritical flows occurring in the surf–swash transition zone and wave–wave interferences can generate dome-like bedforms in intertidal zones.



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. We are thankful to Arnoud Slootman for his constructive remarks that helped us to improve the quality of the manuscript. The authors appreciate the editorial comments of Monique T. Delafontaine and Burg W. Flemming.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest with third parties.


  1. Alexander J, Bridge JS, Cheel RJ, Leclair SF (2001) Bedforms and associated sedimentary structures formed under supercritical water flows over aggrading sand beds. Sedimentology 48:133–152. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashley GM (1990) Classification of large-scale subaqueous bedforms: a new look at an old problem. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 60:160–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aubié S, Tastet J-P (2000) Coastal erosion, processes and rates: an historical study of the Gironde coastline, southwestern France. J Coastal Res 16:756–767Google Scholar
  4. Baldock TE, Holmes P (1999) Simulation and prediction of swash oscillations on a steep beach. Coastal Engineering 36:219–242. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bascom W (1980) Waves and beaches; the dynamics of the ocean surface. Anchor, Garden CityGoogle Scholar
  6. Berné S, Auffret J-P, Walker P (1988) Internal structure of subtidal sandwaves revealed by high-resolution seismic reflection. Sedimentology 35:5–20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brenchley PJ, Newall G (1982) Storm-influenced inner-shelf sand lobes in the Caradoc (Ordovician) of Shropshire, England. Journal of Sedimentary Research 52:1257–1269Google Scholar
  8. Brocchini M, Baldock TE (2008) Recent advances in modeling swash zone dynamics: influence of surf-swash interaction on nearshore hydrodynamics and morphodynamics. Reviews of Geophysics 46.
  9. Brocchini M, Peregrine DH (1996) Integral flow properties of the swash zone and averaging. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 317:241–273. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Broome R, Komar PD (1979) Undular hydraulic jumps and the formation of backlash ripples on beaches. Sedimentology 26:543–559. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell CV (1966) Truncated wave-ripple lamina. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 36:825–828. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cartigny MJB, Ventra D, Postma G, van Den Berg JH (2014) Morphodynamics and sedimentary structures of bedforms under supercritical-flow conditions: new insights from flume experiments. Sedimentology 61:712–748. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cayocca F (1996) Modélisation morphodynamique d’une embouchure tidale: application aux passes d’entrée du Bassin d’Arcachon. PhD thesis, University Bordeaux 1, FranceGoogle Scholar
  14. Cayocca F (2001) Long-term morphological modeling of a tidal inlet: the Arcachon Basin, France. Coastal Engineering 42:115–142. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chauhan PPS (2000) Bedform association on a ridge and runnel foreshore: implications for the hydrography of a macrotidal estuarine beach. J Coastal Res 16:1011–1021Google Scholar
  16. Clifton HE (2006) A re-examination of facies models for clastic shorelines. In: Posamentier HW, Walker RG (Eds) Facies model revisited. SEPM Special Publication 84:293–337Google Scholar
  17. Clifton HE, Hunter RE, Phillips RL (1971) Depositional structures and processes in the non-barred high-energy nearshore. Journal of Sedimentary Research 41:651–670Google Scholar
  18. Cummings DI, Dumas S, Dalrymple RW (2009) Fine-grained versus coarse-grained wave ripples generated experimentally under large-scale oscillatory flow. Journal of Sedimentary Research 79:83–93. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dabrio CJ (1982) Sedimentary structures generated on the foreshore by migrating ridge and runnel systems on microtidal and mesotidal coasts of S. Spain. Sedimentary Geology 32:141–151. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dalrymple RW (1984) Morphology and internal structure of sandwaves in the bay of Fundy. Sedimentology 31:365–382. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dashtgard SE, Gingras MK, MacEachern JA (2009) Tidally modulated shorefaces. Journal of Sedimentary Research 79:793–807. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dashtgard SE, MacEachern JA, Frey SE, Gingras MK (2012) Tidal effects on the shoreface: towards a conceptual framework. Sedimentary Geology 279:42–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Davidson-Arnott RGD, Greenwood B (1974) Bedforms and structures associated with bar and trough topography in the shallow-water wave environment, Kouchibouguac Bay, New Brunswick, Canada. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 44:698–704Google Scholar
  24. Dietrich P, Ghienne J-F, Normandeau A, Lajeunesse P (2016) Upslope-migrating bedforms in a proglacial Sandur Delta: cyclic steps from river-derived underflows? Journal of Sedimentary Research 86:113–123. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dott R, Bourgeois J (1982) Hummocky stratification: significance of its variable bedding sequences. Geological Society of America Bulletin 93:663–680.<663:HSSOIV>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dumas S, Arnott RWC, Southard JB (2005) Experiments on oscillatory-flow and combined-flow bed forms: implications for interpreting parts of the shallow-marine sedimentary record. Journal of Sedimentary Research 75:501–513. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fedele JJ, Hoyal DC, Barnaal Z, Tulenko J, Awalt S (2017) Bedforms created by gravity flows. SEPM Special Publication in pressGoogle Scholar
  28. Fielding CR (2006) Upper flow regime sheets, lenses and scour fills: extending the range of architectural elements for fluvial sediment bodies. Sedimentary Geology 190:227–240. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Froidefond J-M, Gallissaires J-M, Prud’Homme R (1990) Spatial variation in sinusoidal wave energy on a crescentic nearshore bar; application to the cap-ferret coast, France. J Coastal Res 6:927–942Google Scholar
  30. Gallagher EL (2003) A note on megaripples in the surf zone: evidence for their relation to steady flow dunes. Marine Geology 193:171–176. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ghienne JF, Girard F, Moreau J, Rubino JL (2010) Late Ordovician climbing-dune cross-stratification: a signature of outburst floods in proglacial outwash environments? Sedimentology 57:1175–1198. Google Scholar
  32. Gilbert GK (1914) The transportation of débris by running water. US Geol Surv Prof Pap 86Google Scholar
  33. Hand BM (1974) Supercritical flow in density currents. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 44:637–648Google Scholar
  34. Harms JC, Southard JB, Spearing DR, Walker RG (1975) Depositional environments as interpreted from primary sedimentary structures and stratification sequences. SEPM Short Course no 2Google Scholar
  35. Harms J, Southard J, Walker RG (1982) Structures and sequences in clastic rocks. SEPM Short Course 9Google Scholar
  36. Herbert C, Alexander J, Álvaro M (2015) Back-flow ripples in troughs downstream of unit bars: formation, preservation and value for interpreting flow conditions. Sedimentology 62:1814–1836. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hughes Clarke JE (2016) First wide-angle view of channelized turbidity currents links migrating cyclic steps to flow characteristics. Nature Communications 7:11896. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hughes BA, Stewart RW (1961) Interaction between gravity waves and a shear flow. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 10(3):385–400. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kennedy JF (1961) Stationary waves and antidunes in alluvial channels. W.M. Keck Laboratory of Hydraulics and Water Research, California Institute of Technology, Report KH-R-2Google Scholar
  40. Kirby JT (1986) A general wave equation for waves over rippled beds. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 162:171–186. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Komar PD (1971) Hydraulic jumps in turbidity currents. GSA Bulletin 82:1477–1488.[1477:HJITC]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Landau L, Lifshitz E (1987) Fluid mechanics, 2nd edn. Pergamon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  43. Lang J, Winsemann J (2013) Lateral and vertical facies relationships of bedforms deposited by aggrading supercritical flows: from cyclic steps to humpback dunes. Sedimentary Geology 296:36–54. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lang J, Dixon RJ, Le Heron DP, Winsemann J (2012) Depositional architecture and sequence stratigraphic correlation of upper Ordovician glaciogenic deposits, Illizi Basin, Algeria. Geological Society of London, Special Publication 368:293–317. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lang J, Brandes C, Winsemann J (2017) Erosion and deposition by supercritical density flows during channel avulsion and backfilling: field examples from coarse-grained deepwater channel-levée complexes (Sandino Forearc Basin, southern central America). Sedimentary Geology 349:79–102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Langford R, Bracken B (1987) Medano Creek, Colorado, a model for upper-flow-regime fluvial deposition. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 57:863–870Google Scholar
  47. Larsen SM, Greenwood B, Aagaard T (2015) Observations of megaripples in the surf zone. Marine Geology 364:1–11. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Longo S, Petti M, Losada IJ (2002) Turbulence in the swash and surf zones: a review. Coastal Engineering 45:129–147. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Marren PM, Russell AJ, Rushmer EL (2009) Sedimentology of a sandur formed by multiple jökulhlaups, Kverkfjöll, Iceland. Sedimentary Geology 213:77–88. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Massari F (1996) Upper-flow-regime stratification types on steep-face, coarse-grained, Gilbert-type progradational wedges (Pleistocene, southern Italy). Journal of Sedimentary Research 66:364–375. Google Scholar
  51. Masselink G, Hughes M, Knight J (2014) Introduction to coastal processes and geomorphology. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  52. Morsilli M, Pomar L (2012) Internal waves vs. surface storm waves: a review on the origin of hummocky cross-stratification. Terra Nova 24:273–282. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ono K, Plink-Björklund P (2017) Froude supercritical flow bedforms in deepwater slope channels? Field examples in conglomerates, sandstones and fine-grained deposits. Sedimentology.
  54. Peak SD (2004) Wave refraction over complex nearshore bathymetry. Naval Postgraduate School, MontereyGoogle Scholar
  55. Perillo MM, Best J, Garcia MH (2014) A new phase diagram for combined-flow bedforms. Journal of Sedimentary Research 84:301–313. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Powell JH (2010) Jurassic sedimentation in the Cleveland Basin: a review. Proceedings of Yorkshire Geological Society 58:21–72. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Quin JG (2011) Is most hummocky cross-stratification formed by large-scale ripples? Sedimentology 58:1414–1433. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Reineck H, Singh I (1980) Depositional sedimentary environments (with reference to terrigenous clastics). Springer, HeidelbergCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schmincke H-U, Fisher RV, Waters AC (1973) Antidune and chute and pool structures in the base surge deposits of the Laacher see area, Germany. Sedimentology 20:553–574. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shipp RC (1984) Bedforms and depositional sedimentary structures of a barred nearshore system, eastern Long Island, New York. In: Greenwood B, Davis RA (eds) Developments in sedimentology. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 235–259Google Scholar
  61. Simons DB, Richardson EV, Nordin CF (1965) Sedimentary structures generated by flow in alluvial channels. In: Middleton GV (ed) primary sedimentary structures and their hydrodynamic interpretation. SEPM Special Publication 12:34–52Google Scholar
  62. Slootman A, Cartigny MJB, Moscariello A, Chiaradia M, de Boer PL (2016) Quantification of tsunami-induced flows on a Mediterranean carbonate ramp reveals catastrophic evolution. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 444:192–204. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Spinewine B, Sequeiros OE, Garcia MH, Beaubouef RT, Sun T, Savoye B (2009) Experiments on wedge-shaped deep sea sedimentary deposits in minibasins and/or on channel levees emplaced by turbidity currents. Part II. Morphodynamic evolution of the wedge and of the associated bedforms. Journal of Sedimentary Research 79:608–628. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Swales A, Oldman JW, Smith K (2006) Bedform geometry on a barred sandy shore. Marine Geology 226:243–259. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thauront F (1994) Les transits sédimentaires subtidaux dans les passes internes du Bassin d’Arcachon. PhD thesis, Université Bordeaux 1, FranceGoogle Scholar
  66. Thiry-Bastien P (2002) Stratigraphie séquentielle des calcaires bajociens de l’Est de la France (Jura - Bassin de Paris). PhD thesis, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, FranceGoogle Scholar
  67. Vellinga AJ, Cartigny MJB, Eggenhuisen JT, Hansen EWM (2017) Morphodynamics and depositional signature of low-aggradation cyclic steps: new insights from a depth-resolved numerical model. Sedimentology.
  68. Ventra D, Cartigny MJB, Bijkerk JF, Acikalin S (2015) Supercritical-flow structures on a late carboniferous delta front: sedimentologic and paleoclimatic significance. Geology 43:731–734. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Woodroffe CD (2002) Coasts: form, process and evolution. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  70. Yang B, Dalrymple R, Chun S (2005) Sedimentation on a wave-dominated, open-coast tidal flat, south-western Korea: summer tidal flat - winter shoreface. Sedimentology 52:235–252. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Yang B, Dalrymple RW, Chun S (2006) The significance of hummocky cross-stratification (HCS) wavelengths: evidence from an open-coast tidal flat, South Korea. Journal of Sedimentary Research 76:2–8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yang B, Gingras MK, Pemberton SG, Dalrymple RW (2008) Wave-generated tidal bundles as an indicator of wave-dominated tidal flats. Geology 36:39–42. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zhong G, Cartigny MJ, Kuang Z, Wang L (2015) Cyclic steps along the South Taiwan shoal and west Penghu submarine canyons on the northeastern continental slope of the South China Sea. Geological Society of America Bulletin 127:804–824. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Univ. Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, ENS de Lyon, CNRS, UMR 5276 LGL-TPEVilleurbanneFrance
  2. 2.CICTERRA CONICET, Universidad Nacional de CórdobaCórdobaArgentina
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Acoustique de l’Université du Maine, UMR6613 CNRS/Univ. du MaineLe Mans Cedex 9France

Personalised recommendations