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Sediment transport, San Francisco Bay


Using in situ, continuous, high frequency (8–16 Hz) measurements of velocity, suspended sediment concentration (SSC), and salinity, we investigate the factors affecting near-bed sediment flux during and after a meteorological event (cold front) on an intertidal flat in central San Francisco Bay. Hydrodynamic forcing occurs over many frequency bands including wind wave, ocean swell, seiching (500–1000 s), tidal, and infra-tidal frequencies, and varies greatly over the time scale of hours and days. Sediment fluxes occur primarily due to variations in flow and SSC at three different scales: residual (tidally averaged), tidal, and seiching. During the meteorological event, sediment fluxes are dominated by increases in tidally averaged SSC and flow. Runoff and wind-induced circulation contribute to an order of magnitude increase in tidally averaged offshore flow, while waves and seiching motions from wind forcing cause an order of magnitude increase in tidally averaged SSC. Sediment fluxes during calm periods are dominated by asymmetries in SSC over a tidal cycle. Freshwater forcing produces sharp salinity fronts which trap sediment and sweep by the sensors over short (∼30 min) time scales, and occur primarily during the flood. The resulting flood dominance in SSC is magnified or reversed by variations in wind forcing between the flood and ebb. Long-term records show that more than half of wind events (sustained speeds of greater than 5 m/s) occur for 3 h or less, suggesting that asymmetric wind forcing over a tidal cycle commonly occurs. Seiching associated with wind and its variation produces onshore sediment transport. Overall, the changing hydrodynamic and meteorological forcing influence sediment flux at both short (minutes) and long (days) time scales.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Continental Shelf Research. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Continental Shelf Research, Volume 28, Issue 6, April 2008, Pages 710–725.



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