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Sand Waves Generation: A Numerical Investigation of the Infiernillo Channel in the Gulf of California

DOI: 10.4236/ojms.2016.63035, PP. 412-422

Keywords: Sand Waves, Tidal Hydrodynamics, Bed Load, Sediment Transport

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The effect of the coastal geometry on sand bed forms generation has been investigated for a tidal dominated area. Different hypothetical geometries of coastal channels with flat bottoms and unlimited sediment availability were exposed to strong oscillatory tidal currents to simulate the interaction of hydrodynamics and the bedload sediment transport. The hypothetical geometries stand for the idealization of the principal geographic features of the Infiernillo Channel, a coastal area of the Gulf of California where sandbanks and sand waves have been observed. A depth integrated hydrodynamic-numerical model and a parameterized formula to estimate the bedload sediment transport were applied coupled with a sediment conservation equation to determine the sea bottom morphodynamics. Model predictions in the Infiernillo Channel were compared to available satellite imagery. This investigation demonstrates that a vertical integrated numerical model is able to reproduce the development of incipient sand waves that exist in the Infiernillo Channel. Incipient sandbanks and shoals were also simulated. Sand waves with wavelengths of about 200 m were calculated on the same locations where sand waves actually exist. A crucial finding of this research was to show that the geometry of a shallow water basin and the presence of tidal velocity gradients associated with abrupt changes in the coastline alignment were critical in determining the sand-bed pattern generation. We demonstrate that a vertical variation of tidal currents is not necessary to generate sand waves.


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