Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 1139–1156 | Cite as

Evolution of bed shear stress distribution over the northwest European shelf seas during the last 12,000 years

  • Simon P. Neill
  • James D. Scourse
  • Katsuto Uehara


Due to changes in relative sea level of order 100 m, the contribution of tides and waves to net bed shear stress in shelf sea regions has varied considerably over the Late Glacial and Holocene. Understanding the spatial and temporal distribution of this ratio leads to a deeper understanding of the erosion and deposition of sediments over the shelf seas throughout this time period. Tidal and wave models are here applied to palaeo time slices of the northwest European shelf seas over the last 12,000 years. The model simulations include a series of sensitivity tests to account for the influence of interannual variability in wind conditions on the resulting bed shear stress. The results show that there has been a significant decrease over the last 12,000 years in shelf-scale mobilisation of coarse sediment. Since there was a lower magnitude of wave orbital velocity penetrating to the sea bed as a result of increasing relative sea level, this reduction in sediment mobilisation was primarily controlled by a shelf-scale decrease in wave-induced bed shear stress over the last 12,000 years. The predictions of mean and residual bed shear stress for the modelled palaeo time slices are a useful tool with which to inform site-selection and subsequent interpretation of sediment cores. In addition, the modelled reconstructions of palaeo tidal range over the shelf seas demonstrates the potential errors associated with assuming a present-day tidal range when correcting palaeo sea-level proxies from their deposited datum (e.g. palaeo mean high water spring tide) to palaeo mean sea level.


Palaeoceanography Tidal model Wave model Bed shear stress Sediment distribution Holocene NW European shelf seas 



Palaeobathymetry data were provided by Kurt Lambeck, Australian National University, and the NAO data are publicly available from Tim Osborn, University of East Anglia. Wind data were provided by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and coastline data were obtained using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coastline extractor. Observations of amplitude and phase of tidal elevations for tidal stations were taken from Admiralty Tide Tables, and the FES2004 assimilated altimetry dataset, distributed by AVISO (Archiving, Validation and Interpretation of Satellite Oceanographic data), was produced by Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (LEGOS) and Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS) space oceanography division. Thanks also to the editor, associate editor and three anonymous reviewers whose valuable contributions significantly improved the final version of this manuscript. Simon Neill acknowledges the support of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

Supplementary material

10236_2010_313_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (12.6 mb)
(PDF 12.6 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon P. Neill
    • 1
  • James D. Scourse
    • 1
  • Katsuto Uehara
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Ocean SciencesBangor University, Marine Science LaboratoriesMenai BridgeUK
  2. 2.Research Institute for Applied MechanicsKyushu UniversityKasugaJapan

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