First Advisor

Stefan A. Talke

Date of Publication

Summer 9-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering




Tides -- Lower Columbia River (Or. and Wash.) -- Mathematical models, Tides -- Lower Columbia River (Or. and Wash.) -- Measurement, Tides -- Lower Columbia River (Or. and Wash.) -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 151 pages)


Natural and anthropogenic processes over the past 150 years have altered the bathymetry of the Lower Columbia River (LCR) and have changed the long wave propagation of tides and floods. Possible causes for the increase in tidal amplitudes (+7% in tidal range in Astoria) are decreases in river discharge, lengthening of the river channel due to the construction of jetties at the mouth, dredging and deepening of the shipping channel, and reduction of the tidal prism due to the filling and diking of tidal wetlands. In this study, changes in the characteristics of long waves are elucidated by developing two hydrodynamic models of the LCR which reflect historical and modern bathymetric conditions and forcing. The historic model simulates late 19th century conditions and is extensively validated using recently recovered tide records along the LCR (e.g., Astoria, 1853-1876) and river stage measurements (e.g., Portland, 1876-1964). Results suggest that water levels in Portland at low river discharge are up to 0.5-1.0m lower than in the past. However, historical water levels during a flood scenario based on the 1880 spring freshet are similar to modern water levels. Since tidal range in the modern scenario is persistently higher at all locations, the flood risk in many locations along the LCR has increased for the same boundary conditions. The results are explained by considering the governing equations of momentum and mass-conservation. At low river flow, greater depth leads to reduced frictional effects, producing amplified tidal range and tidal velocities but a decreased river slope (and lower Portland water levels). At high flow, the modern flood is confined by dikes and the loss of wetlands, which counteracts the effect of decreased friction. Nonetheless, the high friction of the historical wooded floodplain also confined the historical flood path. Hence, historical and modern flood heights are surprisingly similar, though scaling analysis suggests that the historical flood wave was more diffusive.


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Persistent Identifier

Included in

Hydrology Commons