Download Full Text (948 KB)

Document Type

Book Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


David G. Aubrey and Graham S. Giese

Publication Date


Book Title

Formation and Evolution of Multiple Tidal Inlets


American Geophysical Union




Coastal and Esturarine Studies


Two specific questions are addressed concerning the role of tidal hydrodynamics in determining the long‐term morphologic evolution of the Nauset Beach‐Monomoy Island barrier system and the Chatham Harbor‐Pleasant Bay tidal estuary, Massachusetts: (1) why do the barrier and estuary exhibit a long‐term (∼150 yr) cycle of new inlet formation, and (2) once a new inlet forms, why is the resulting multiple inlet system unstable? To address these questions, a branched 1‐d numerical model is used to recreate the basic flow patterns in the tidal estuary at ten‐year intervals during the last half century and also to recreate flow conditions shortly before and shortly after the formation of the new inlet. Results suggest that an inlet will form through Nauset Beach once southerly elongation of the barrier has led to a critical head across the barrier at high tide. If this critical head (enhanced by storm surge and wave set‐up) exists at high tide during consecutive tidal cycles, flood currents can deepen the overwash channel sufficiently to enable the stronger ebb currents to complete the formation process. Once a new inlet has formed, the surface gradient and tidal discharge are drastically reduced along the pre‐existing channel to the south of the inlet. This reduction eliminates the tidal scouring action needed to keep the channel open. Rapid shoaling within the channel to the south of the new inlet completes the hydrodynamic decoupling of the northern and southern sections of the estuary.



Hydrodynamical Modeling of a Multiple‐Inlet Estuary/Barrier System: Insight Into Tidal Inlet Formation and Stability

Included in

Oceanography Commons