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Gravitational Circulation as Driver of Upstream Migration of Estuarine Sand Dunes

Published on 30/06/2021 by W.M. van der Sande, P.C. Roos, T. Gerkema, S.J.M.H. Hulscher

Contact details

W.M. van der Sande

University of Twente

Output contains: estuarine sand dunes gravitational circulation linear stability analysis migration direction morphodynamic modeling


Sand dunes are large-scale rhythmic bed patterns commonly occurring in sandy shelf seas, estuaries and rivers. Field observations of sand dunes in the Gironde estuary (France) have suggested that the gravitational circulation may cause seasonal reversal of asymmetry, which is linked to migration direction. In this study, we aim to unravel the influence of gravitational circulation on the migration of estuarine sand dunes. To this end, we present an idealized process-based sand dune model with tide and river forcing, and the addition of a longitudinal salinity gradient (imposed diagnostically) that induces gravitational circulation. Linear stability analysis shows the emergence of dunes from a flat bed and confirms that reversal of dune migration may occur, provided the gravitational circulation is sufficiently strong compared to the river flow velocity. Lastly, we show that the migration direction of estuarine sand dunes is not necessarily the same as the direction of net sediment transport. Read the paper here.

Last modified: 27/09/2021