Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 146–165 | Cite as

First- and higher-order dynamical controls on water exchanges between tidal basins and the open ocean. A case study for the East Frisian Wadden Sea

  • Emil V. Stanev Email author
  • Götz Flöser
  • Jörg-Olaf Wolff


Observational data, high-resolution numerical modelling results and a simple analytical theory are combined in this paper to demonstrate the dependence of the volume transports through tidal inlets on topographical or morphological parameters of a Wadden Sea system. The area of interest covers the East Frisian Wadden Sea and consists of seven weakly connected tidal basins. The observations include time series of tidal gauge data and surface currents measured at a pile station in the backbarrier basin of the island Langeoog, as well as several ADCP transects in the Accumer Ee tidal inlet. The numerical simulations are based on the 3-D primitive equation General Estuarine Transport Model (GETM) with a horizontal resolution of 200 m and terrain following vertical coordinates. The model is forced at its open boundaries with sea-level data from an operational model for the German Bight (German Hydrographic Office). The simple theoretical concepts presented illustrate the effect of topography (hypsometry) in the tidal basins on the temporal variability of the exchange of water. This topographic control is effectuated through the bottom slope in the areas prone to drying and flooding. For our study area it takes about twice as long from slack water to maximum flood current than from slack water to maximum ebb current. The underlying physics of this signal modulation from a more or less harmonic forcing at the open-sea boundary and the quantification of the contributing physical processes are the major results of this paper. Estimates based simply on volume conservation are consistent with observations and results from numerical modelling, but they do not completely capture the actual non-linear tidal response. Our analysis shows that at least during part of the tidal cycle characteristic topographic parameters of the inlet/bay system have a major impact on the rate of exchange of waters between the Wadden Sea and the open ocean. This impact is especially strong during the transition between flood and ebb conditions. The possible morphodynamic responses are also addressed focusing on some common (“universal”) topographic features in seven tidal basins.


Wadden Sea Hypsometry Dynamics and morphodynamics Water exchange Numerical modelling Observations Reference states in near coastal (tidal) dynamics Universal topography control 


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We are indebted to S. Dick for providing the data from the operational model of BSH and to H. Burchard and K. Bolding for making GETM available to us. The comments of L. Maas on the theoretical part of paper are highly appreciated.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emil V. Stanev
    • 1
    Email author
  • Götz Flöser
    • 2
  • Jörg-Olaf Wolff
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Sea (ICBM)University of OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Coastal ResearchGKSS Research CentreGeesthachtGermany

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