The role of cuspate spits on wave attenuation and energy redistribution in a coastal lagoon, Lagoa dos Patos, Brazil


This research uses a process-based model (Delft3D), validated with measured wave data, to investigate the controls that a cuspate shoreline and its associated submerged morphology have on wave generation, propagation, and attenuation within a large elongated lagoon (Lagoa dos Patos, Brazil). A method based on the Energy-Flux-Method was applied to the historical wind dataset to define representative wind cases to be used as forcing conditions in the model. The results show that, during extreme wind conditions, the spits dissipate wave energy in the lagoon. This (wave attenuation and the wave sheltering effect) controls the stability of the adjacent coastline. The wave attenuation varies between 18% and 46% along the submerged spit depending on the crest width and the amplitude of the incident waves. Waves are mainly attenuated in the proximal and central portions of the spits where the spits are wider, resulting in a reduced transmitted energy to the adjacent coastline, while larger waves are also attenuated on the distal end of the spits. The degree of attenuation depends on the direction of wave generation, the respective fetch, the spit width, and the water depth. A strong relationship of mutual co-adjustment between the morphology and the wave field results in a very low occurrence of oblique wave angles of incidence, especially for waves propagating across the long lagoon axis. Furthermore, the wave attenuation over the spits is also responsible for its progressive erosion, which, from decades to centuries, may lead to an increase of changes on the lagoon shorelines.

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The authors would like to acknowledge reviewers, especially reviewer 2, for their helpful comments which have greatly contributed to improving the paper. We also acknowledge PFRH-Petrobrás program no. PB-215, for the student grant provided to the full-engagement development of the first author’s Ph.D. thesis, and the research agency CAPES for funding an almost 1-year internship at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management (GCCM), Griffith University (AU), which resulted in the present work. Productivity scholarship 1D CNPQ 301597/2018-9. The first author would also like to thank the GCCM Team for the good opportunity of working together, for their nice reception, willingness to share knowledge, and patience during the learning process. We also thank Rede Ondas Project (, an initiative from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, coordinated by the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG-Brazil) for providing the measured wave data (Datawell Waverider—Mark III) for the model validation.

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Malheiros Miranda, I., Toldo, E.E., da Fontoura Klein, A.H. et al. The role of cuspate spits on wave attenuation and energy redistribution in a coastal lagoon, Lagoa dos Patos, Brazil. Geo-Mar Lett (2020) doi:10.1007/s00367-019-00632-9

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