skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

This content will become publicly available on January 1, 2025

Title: The Roles of Bathymetry and Waves in Rip‐Channel Dynamics

The behavior and predictability of rip currents (strong, wave‐driven offshore‐directed surfzone currents) have been studied for decades. However, few studies have examined the effects of rip channel morphology on the rip generation or have compared morphodynamic models with observations. Here, simulations conducted with the numerical morphodynamic model MIKE21 reproduce observed trends in flows and bathymetric evolution for two channels dredged across a nearshore sandbar and terrace on an ocean beach near Duck, NC, USA. Channel dimensions, wave conditions, and flows differed between the two cases. In one case, a strong rip current was driven by moderate height, near‐normally incident waves over an approximately 1‐m deep channel with relatively little bathymetric evolution. In the other case, no rip was generated by the large, near‐normally incident waves over the shallower (∼0.5 m) channel, and the channel migrated in the direction of the mean flow and eventually filled in. The model simulated the flow directions, the generation (or not) of rip currents, and the morphological evolution of the channels reasonably well. Model simulations were then conducted for different combinations of the two channel geometries and two wave conditions to examine the relative importance of the waves and morphology to the rip current evolution. The different bathymetries were the dominant factor controlling the flow, whereas both the initial morphology and wave conditions were important for channel evolution. In addition, channel dimensions affected the spatial distribution of rip current forcings and the relative importance of terms.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
2044850 1829136
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Enhanced diapycnal mixing induced by the near-bottom breaking of internal waves is an essential component of the lower meridional overturning circulation. Despite its crucial role in the ocean circulation, tidally driven internal wave breaking is challenging to observe due to its inherently short spatial and temporal scales. We present detailed moored and shipboard observations that resolve the spatiotemporal variability of the tidal response over a small-scale bump embedded in the continental slope of Tasmania. Cross-shore tidal currents drive a nonlinear trapped response over the steep bottom around the bump. The observations are roughly consistent with two-dimensional high-mode tidal lee-wave theory. However, the alongshore tidal velocities are large, suggesting that the alongshore bathymetric variability modulates the tidal response driven by the cross-shore tidal flow. The semidiurnal tide and energy dissipation rate are correlated at subtidal time scales, but with complex temporal variability. Energy dissipation from a simple scattering model shows that the elevated near-bottom turbulence can be sustained by the impinging mode-1 internal tide, where the dissipation over the bump isO(1%) of the incident depth-integrated energy flux. Despite this small fraction, tidal dissipation is enhanced over the bump due to steep topography at a horizontal scale ofO(1) km and may locally drive significant diapycnal mixing.

    Significance Statement

    Near-bottom turbulent mixing is a key element of the global abyssal circulation. We present observations of the spatiotemporal variability of tidally driven turbulent processes over a small-scale topographic bump off Tasmania. The semidiurnal tide generates large-amplitude transient lee waves and hydraulic jumps that are unstable and dissipate the tidal energy. These processes are consistent with the scattering of the incident low-mode internal tide on the continental slope of Tasmania. Despite elevated turbulence over the bump, near-bottom energy dissipation is small relative to the incident wave energy flux.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The influence of a deep (30 m), narrow (30 m) cross‐shore channel on the circulation and wave‐induced setup over a shallow (∼0.5 m) and wide (∼400 m) shore‐attached fringing reef is examined using field measurements collected at Ipan, Guam. Mean currents on the reef flat over a 7‐week study period during mid and high tides when the reef is submerged are directed toward the channel with the alongshore component of the current increasing with proximity to the channel. The cross‐shore component of the reef flat current is directed onshore at the sensors in the far‐field of the channel with a weak offshore flow at the current meter located closest to the channel (∼760 m to the north). Low‐frequency fluctuations of the alongshore reef flat current and offshore channel current are significantly correlated and with the incident significant wave height. Mean and low‐frequency fluctuating currents are forced by the spatially variable wave‐driven setup, modulated by tidal elevation, which creates a pressure gradient over the reef flat due to the channel where waves do not break. The dominant alongshore momentum balance on the reef flat is between the pressure gradient and bottom stress, with an inferred drag coefficient ofCD ∼ 0.01. A simple analytical model is presented that is consistent with the observations and delineates the near‐ and far‐field of the channel as a function of the aspect ratio of the reef. Observations from a longer deployment of channel currents are highly correlated with incident wave height in distinct tidal level bands.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Despite its relatively small magnitude, cross-channel circulation in estuaries can influence the along-channel momentum balance, dispersion, and transport. We investigate spatial and temporal variation in cross-channel circulation at two contrasting sites in the Hudson River estuary. The two sites differ in the relative strength and direction of Coriolis and curvature forcing. We contrast the patterns and magnitudes of flow at the two sites during varying conditions in stratification driven by tidal amplitude and river discharge. We found well-defined flows during flood tides at both sites, characterized by mainly two-layer structures when the water column was more homogeneous and structures with three or more layers when the water column was more stratified. Ebb tides had generally weaker and less definite flows, except at one site where curvature and Coriolis reinforced each other during spring tide ebbs. Cross-channel currents had similar patterns, but were oppositely directed at the two sites, demonstrating the importance of curvature even in channels with relatively gradual curves. Coriolis and curvature dominated the measured terms in the cross-channel momentum balance. Their combination was generally consistent with driving the observed patterns and directions of flow, but local acceleration and cross-channel advection made some notable contributions. A large residual in the momentum balance indicates that some combination of vertical stress divergence, baroclinic pressure gradients, and along-channel and vertical advection must play an essential role, but data limitations prevented an accurate estimation of these terms. Cross-channel advection affected the along-channel momentum balance at times, with implications for the exchange flow’s strength.

    Significance Statement

    Currents that flow across the channel in an estuary move slower than those flowing along the channel, but they can transport materials and change water properties in important ways, affecting human uses of estuaries such as shipping, aquaculture, and recreation. We wanted to better understand cross-channel currents in the Hudson River estuary. We found that larger tides produced the strongest cross-channel currents with a two-layer pattern, compared to weaker currents with three layers during smaller tides. Higher or lower river flow also affected current strength. Comparing two locations, we saw cross-channel currents moving in opposite directions because of differences in the curvature of the river channel. Our results show how channel curvature and Earth’s rotation combine to produce cross-channel currents.

    more » « less
  4. Two sessions were organized during the 2018 Fall AGU Meeting entitled, (1) Coastal Response to Extreme Events: Fidelity of Model Predictions of Surge, Inundation, and Morphodynamics and (2) Improved Observational and Modeling Skills to Understand the Hurricane and Winter Storm Induced Surge and Meteotsunami. The focus of these sessions was on examining the impact of natural disasters on estuarine and coastal regions worldwide, including the islands and mainland in the northwestern Atlantic and the northwestern Pacific. The key research interests are the investigations on the regional dynamics of storm surges, coastal inundations, waves, tides, currents, sea surface temperatures, storm inundations and coastal morphology using both numerical models and observations during tropical and extratropical cyclones. This Special Issue (SI) ‘Estuarine and coastal natural hazards’ in Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science is an outcome of the talks presented at these two sessions. Five themes are considered (effects of storms of wave dynamics; tide and storm surge simulations; wave-current interaction during typhoons; wave effects on storm surges and hydrodynamics; hydrodynamic and morphodynamic responses to typhoons), arguably reflecting areas of greatest interest to researchers and policy makers. This synopsis of the articles published in the SI allows us to obtain a better understanding of the dynamics of natural hazards (e.g., storm surges, extreme waves, and storm induced inundation) from various physical aspects. The discussion in the SI explores future dimensions to comprehend numerical models with fully coupled windwave- current-morphology interactions at high spatial resolutions in the nearshore and surf zone during extreme wind events. In addition, it would be worthwhile to design numerical models incorporating climate change projections (sea level rise and global warming temperatures) for storm surges and coastal inundations to allow more precisely informed coastal zone management plans. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract Using an idealized channel representative of a coastal plain estuary, we conducted numerical simulations to investigate the generation of internal lee waves by lateral circulation. It is shown that the lee waves can be generated across all salinity regimes in an estuary. Since the lateral currents are usually subcritical with respect to the lowest mode, mode-2 lee waves are most prevalent but a hydraulic jump may develop during the transition to subcritical flows in the deep channel, producing high energy dissipation and strong mixing. Unlike flows over a sill, stratified water in the deep channel may become stagnant such that a mode-1 depression wave can form higher up in the water column. With the lee wave Froude number above 1 and the intrinsic wave frequency between the inertial and buoyancy frequency, the lee waves generated in coastal plain estuaries are nonlinear waves with the wave amplitude Δ h scaling approximately with , where V is the maximum lateral flow velocity and is the buoyancy frequency. The model results are summarized using the estuarine classification diagram based on the freshwater Froude number Fr f and the mixing parameter M . The Δ h decreases with increasing Fr f as stronger stratification suppresses waves, and no internal waves are generated at large Fr f . The Δ h initially increases with increasing M as the lateral flows become stronger with stronger tidal currents, but decreases or saturates to a certain amplitude as M further increases. This modeling study suggests that lee waves can be generated over a wide range of estuarine conditions. 
    more » « less