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Creators/Authors contains: "Heiss, James W."

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  1. Abstract

    Future increases in the frequency of tidal flooding due to sea level rise (SLR) are likely to affect pore water salinities in coastal aquifers. In this study, we investigate the impact of increased tidal flooding frequency on salinity and flow dynamics in coastal aquifers using numerical variable‐density variably‐saturated groundwater flow and salt transport models. Short (sub‐daily) and long (decadal) period tides are combined with SLR projections to drive continuous 80‐year models of flow and salt transport. Results show that encroaching intertidal zones lead to both periodic and long‐term vertical salinization of the upper aquifer. Salinization of the upper aquifer due to tidal flooding forces the lower interface seaward, even under SLR. System dynamics are controlled by the interplay between SLR and long period tidal forcing associated with perigean spring tides and the 18.6‐year lunar nodal cycle. Periodic tidal flooding substantially enhances intertidal saltwater‐freshwater mixing, resulting in a 6‐ to 10‐fold expansion of the intertidal saltwater‐freshwater mixing area across SLR scenarios. The onset of the expansion coincides with extreme high water levels resulting from lunar nodal cycling of tidal constituent amplitudes. The findings are the first to demonstrate the combined effects of gradual SLR and short and long period tides on aquifer salinity distributions, and reveal competing influences of SLR on saltwater intrusion. The results are likely to have important implications for coastal ocean chemical fluxes and groundwater resources as tidal flooding intensifies worldwide.

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  2. Abstract

    The intertidal zone of beach aquifers hosts biogeochemical transformations of terrestrially derived nutrients that are mediated by reactive organic carbon from seawater infiltration. While dissolved organic carbon is often assumed the sole reactive organic carbon component, advected and entrapped particulate organic carbon (POC) is also capable of supporting chemical reactions. Retarded advection of POC relative to groundwater flow forms pools of reactive carbon within beach sediments that support biogeochemical reactions as dissolved solutes move across them due to transient groundwater flow. In this work, we simulate the contribution of POC to beach reactions and identify parameters that control its relative contribution using a groundwater flow model (SEAWAT) and reactive transport model (PHT3D). Results show transient contributions of POC to denitrification, as the spatial extent of the saline circulation cell varies over time due to changing hydrologic factors. A decrease in POC retardation and an increase in tidal amplitude during POC deposition resulted in POC expansion, which increased the relative contributions of POC to beach reactivity. Decreased hydraulic conductivity and increased tidal amplitude post‐deposition decreased the utilization of POC for denitrification by allowing the oxic, saline water to completely encompass the pool of POC. Results highlight that POC is an intermittently utilized source of carbon that displays complex spatial relationships with groundwater flow conditions and overall beach biogeochemistry. This work demonstrates that POC may be a periodically important but overlooked contributor to biogeochemical reactions in carbon‐poor beach aquifers.

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  3. Abstract

    A density‐dependent, variably saturated groundwater flow and solute transport model was used to investigate the influence of swash motions on subsurface flow and moisture dynamics in beach aquifers with heterogeneous distributions of hydraulic conductivity (K) and capillarity. The numerical simulations were performed within a Monte Carlo framework using field measurements conducted in the swash zone of a sandy beach. Our results show that heterogeneous capillarity causes spatially variable capillary rise above the groundwater table. In response to swash motions, heterogeneity creates capillary barriers that result in pockets of elevated moisture content beneath the swash zone. These moisture hotspots persist within the unsaturated zone even at ebb tide when the swash motions recede seaward. Heterogeneous capillarity also results in highly tortuous preferential flow paths and alters the flow rates from the sand surface to the water table. HeterogeneousKgreatly enhances the seawater infiltration into the swash zone and modulates its spatial distribution along the beach surface. Due to heterogeneousKand capillarity, complex mixing patterns emerge. Both strain‐dominated and vorticity‐dominated flow regions develop and dissipate as tides and waves move across the beach surface. Complex mixing patterns of seawater percolating from the swash zone surface to the water table, with localized areas of high and low mixing intensities, are further demonstrated by analysis of dilution index. Our findings reveal the influence of geologic heterogeneity on swash zone moisture and flow dynamics, which may have important implications for sediment transport and chemical processing in beach aquifers.

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