Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 124–136 | Cite as

Suspended sediment transport along an idealised tidal embayment: settling lag, residual transport and the interpretation of tidal signals

Original paper


We present semi-analytical solutions for suspended sediment concentration (SSC) and residual sediment transport in a simple mathematical model of a short tidal embayment. These solutions allow us to investigate in some detail the characteristic tidal and semi-tidal variation of SSC and the processes leading to residual sediment transport, including settling and scour lags, the roles of ‘local’ and ‘advective’ contributions, and the presence of internally or externally generated overtides. By interpreting the transport mechanisms in terms of the classic conceptual models of settling lag we clarify how these models may be expressed in mathematical terms. Our results suggest that settling lag is usually a more important process than scour lag, and that a local model which neglects advection may predict the direction of net sediment transport incorrectly. Finally, we discuss our results in the context of other transport processes and morphodynamic feedback.


Coastal sediment transport Tidal asymmetry Suspension Settling lag Scour lag 



This work was supported by the NERC/EPSRC Environmental Mathematics and Statistics Programme through a postdoctoral fellowship, ref. NE/B50188X/1. I am grateful for the very useful comments from Carl Friedrichs and from an anonymous referee, which helped to improve this paper substantially.


  1. Bass SJ, Aldridge JN, McCave IN, Vincent CE (2002) Phase relationships between fine sediment suspensions and tidal currents in coastal seas. J Geoph Res 107(C10):3146 DOI 10.1029/2001JC001269Google Scholar
  2. Boon JD, Byrne RJ (1981) On basin hypsometry and the morphodynamic response of coastal inlet systems. Mar Geol 40:27–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolla Pitaluga M, Seminara G (2003) Depth-integrated modelling of suspended sediment transport. Wat Res 39(5):1137 DOI 10.1029/2002WR001306Google Scholar
  4. Cancino L, Neves R (1999) Hydrodynamic and sediment suspension modelling in estuarine systems. Part II: application to the Western Scheldt and Gironde estuaries. J Mar Syst 22:117–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dronkers J (1986) Tidal asymmetry and estuarine morphology. Neth J Sea Res 20(2–3):117–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Friedrichs CT, Aubrey DG (1988) Non-linear tidal distortion in shallow well-mixed estuaries: a synthesis. Est Coast Shelf Sci 27:521–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Friedrichs CT (1995) Stability shear stress and equilibrium cross-sectional geometry of sheltered tidal channels. J Coast Res 11(4):1062–1074Google Scholar
  8. Friedrichs CT, Armbrust BD, de Swart HE (1998) Hydrodynamics and equilibrium sediment dynamics of shallow, funnel-shaped tidal estuaries. In: Dronkers J, Scheffers M (eds) Physics of Estuaries and Coastal Seas. Balkema, Amsterdam, pp 315–327Google Scholar
  9. Groen P (1967) On the residual transport of suspended matter by an alternating tidal current. Neth J Sea Res 3:564–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hoitink AJF, Hoekstra P, van Maren DS (2003) Flow asymmetry associated with astronomical tides: implications for the residual transport of sediment. J Geoph Res 108(C10):3315 DOI 10.1029/2002JC001539Google Scholar
  11. Jung KT, Jin JY, Kang H-W, Lee HJ (2004) An analytical solution for the local suspended sediment concentration profile in tidal sea region. Est Coast Shelf Sci 61:657–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nichols MM, Biggs RB (1985) Estuaries. In: Davis R (ed) Coastal sedimentary environments, Chap 2. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Partheniades E (1965) Erosion and deposition of cohesive soils. J Hydr Div ASCE 91(HY1):105–139Google Scholar
  14. Pethick JS (1980) Velocity surges and asymmetry in tidal channels. Est Coast Mar Sci 11:331–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Postma H (1961) Transport and accumulation of suspended matter in the Dutch Wadden Sea. Neth J Sea Res 1:148–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Prandle D (1997) Tidal characteristics of suspended sediment concentrations. J Hydr Eng 123(4):341–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pritchard D, Hogg AJ (2003) Cross-shore sediment transport and the equilibrium morphology of mudflats under tidal currents. J Geoph Res 108(C10):3313 DOI 10.1029/2002JC001570Google Scholar
  18. Ridderinkhof H (1998) On the sensitivity of the large scale transport and distribution of fine-grained sediments in a tidal basin to the formulation of the erosion–sedimentation cycle. In: Dronkers J, Scheffers M (eds) Physics of Estuaries and Coastal Seas. Balkema, Amsterdam, pp 145–153Google Scholar
  19. Ross MA, Mehta AJ (1989) On the mechanics of lutoclines and fluid mud. J Coast Res SI 5:51–61Google Scholar
  20. Schuttelaars HM, de Swart HE (1996) An idealised long-term morphodynamic model of a tidal embayment. Eur J Mech B Fluids 15(1):55–80Google Scholar
  21. Shi Z (2004) Behaviour of fine suspended sediment at the North passage of the Changjiang Estuary, China. J Hydrol 293:180–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shi Z, Ren LF, Zhang SY, Chen JY (1997) Acoustic imaging of cohesive sediment resuspension and re-entrainment in the Changjiang Estuary, East China Sea. Geo Mar Lett 17:162–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Smith R (1977) Long-term dispersion of contaminants in small estuaries. J Fluid Mech 82:129–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. van de Kreeke J, Hibma A (2005) Observations on silt and sand transport in the throat section of the Frisian Inlet. Coastal Eng 52:159–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. van Straaten LMJU, Kuenen PH (1958) Tidal action as a cause of clay accumulation. J Sediment Petrol 28:406–413Google Scholar
  26. Weeks AR, Simpson JH, Bowers D (1993) The relationship between concentrations of suspended particulate matter and tidal processes in the Irish Sea. Con Shelf Res 13(12):1325–1334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Winterwerp JC (2001) Stratification effects by cohesive and non-cohesive sediment. J Geophys Res 106(C10):22559–22574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Young WR, Jones S (1991) Shear dispersion. Phys Fluids A 3(5):1087–1101CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BP Institute for Multiphase Flow, Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations