Storm-driven bottom sediment transport on a high-energy narrow shelf (NW Iberia) and development of mud depocenters


Bottom sediment transport on the NW Iberian shelf was monitored during a downwelling storm in September 2014. Collected data were analyzed and fed into a 3-D coastal ocean model to understand storm-driven sediment transport on the shelf and its impact on midshelf mud depocenters (MDCs). A significantly enhanced level of bottom sediment resuspension, nearly two orders of magnitude higher than that in the prestorm period, was recorded at the mooring site. Field data analysis reveals that it was induced by a short-lasting strong bottom current in combination with enhanced wave-current interaction. Simulation results indicate that this strong current was part of a coastal jet resulted from downwelling. An across-shelf horizontal density gradient as high as 0.32 g/m4 occurred at the interface between the downwelling and the bottom waters, forming a remarkable front. Due to buoyancy effect, the downwelling water was mostly confined to the coast with a depth limit of 80 m in the south and 120 m in the north of the region, resulting in a northward-directed coastal jet. Simulation results suggest that during the storm, local near-bottom sediment suspensions with concentrations on the order of 10 kg/m3 would be triggered by wave-current interaction and flow convergence associated with the front. Direct impact on the development of MDCs by transport and deposition of concentrated sediment suspensions is indicated by model results. The seaward limit of the front coincided with the shoreward edge of the MDC nucleus, suggesting the front as a primary control on the deposition of fine-grained sediment.
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