Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal of Marine Science and Engineering





First Page



Particle settling velocity and erodibility are key factors that govern the transport of sediment through coastal environments including estuaries. These are difficult to parameterize in models that represent mud, whose properties can change in response to many factors, including tidally varying suspended sediment concentration (SSC) and shear stress. Using the COAWST (Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sediment Transport) model framework, we implemented bed consolidation, sediment-induced stratification, and flocculation formulations within an idealized two-dimensional domain that represented the longitudinal dimension of a micro-tidal, muddy, partially mixed estuary. Within the Estuarine Turbidity Maximum (ETM), SSC and median floc diameter varied by a factor of four over the tidal cycle. Downstream of the ETM, the median floc size and SSC were several times smaller and showed less tidal variation (~20% or less). The suspended floc distributions only reached an equilibrium size as a function of SSC and shear in the ETM at peak tidal flow. In general, flocculation increased particle size, which reduced SSC by half in the ETM through increased settling velocity. Consolidation also limited SSC by reduced resuspension, which then limited floc growth through reduced SSC by half outside of the ETM. Sediment-induced stratification had negligible effects in the parameter space examined. Efforts to lessen the computation cost of the flocculation routine by reducing the number of size classes proved difficult; floc size distribution and SSC were sensitive to specification of size classes by factors of 60% and 300%, respectively.

See also associated supplementary material:

A Model Archive for Simulations in a Partially-Mixed Idealized Estuary using the COAWST System: Model Code and Output.




COAWST; numerical model; flocculation dynamics; cohesive sediment

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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