Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Changes in surfzone morphodynamics driven by multi-decadal contraction of a large ebb-tidal delta

November 1, 2013

The impact of multi-decadal, large-scale deflation (76 million m3 of sediment loss) and contraction (~ 1 km) of a 150 km2 ebb-tidal delta on hydrodynamics and sediment transport at adjacent Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA (USA), is examined using a coupled wave and circulation model. The model is forced with representative wave and tidal conditions using recent (2005) and historic (1956) ebb-tidal delta bathymetry data sets. Comparison of the simulations indicates that along north/south trending Ocean Beach the contraction and deflation of the ebb-tidal delta have resulted in significant differences in the flow and sediment dynamics. Between 1956 and 2005 the transverse bar (the shallow attachment point of the ebb-tidal delta to the shoreline) migrated northward ~ 1 km toward the inlet while a persistent alongshore flow and transport divergence point migrated south by ~ 500 m such that these features now overlap. A reduction in tidal prism and sediment supply over the last century has resulted in a net decrease in offshore tidal current-generated sediment transport at the mouth of San Francisco Bay, and a relative increase in onshore-directed wave-driven transport toward the inlet, accounting for the observed contraction of the ebb-tidal delta. Alongshore migration of the transverse bar and alongshore flow divergence have resulted in an increasing proportion of onshore migrating sediment from the ebb-tidal delta to be transported north along the beach in 2005 versus south in 1956. The northerly migrating sediment is then trapped by Pt. Lobos, a rocky headland at the northern extreme of the beach, consistent with the observed shoreline accretion in this area. Conversely, alongshore migration of the transverse bar and divergence point has decreased the sediment supply to southern Ocean Beach, consistent with the observed erosion of the shoreline in this area. This study illustrates the utility of applying a high-resolution coupled circulation-wave model for understanding coastal response to large-scale bathymetric changes over multi-decadal timescales, common to many coastal systems adjacent to urbanized estuaries and watersheds worldwide.

Publication Year 2013
Title Changes in surfzone morphodynamics driven by multi-decadal contraction of a large ebb-tidal delta
DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2013.07.005
Authors Jeff E. Hansen, Edwin Elias, Patrick L. Barnard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Geology
Index ID 70112522
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center