Calibrated suspended sediment observations beneath large amplitude non-linear internal waves

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While it has been recognized for some time that large amplitude non-linear internal waves (NLIW) can mobilize and transport sediment, quantitative observations of this process are rare. Rarer still are accompanying estimates of suspended sediment mass concentration (SSC) during the passage of NLIW. Here, we present high resolution observations of NLIW and the SSC response within the bottom boundary layer. The observations were made in 250 m of water in a mildly sloping region of the Browse Basin on Australia’s Northwest Shelf. We compare two independent but direct calibration methods, and employ Bayesian methods to estimate the uncertainty in SSC. During a large NLIW event, the peak mean SSC estimate at 0.49 m above the sea bed was 161 mg L−1, with a maximum time-rate-of-change of 0.14 mg L−1 s−1. The unsteady boundary layer forcing under NLIW resulted in a variable time-height dependent relationship between bed stress and SSC with increasing height above the sea bed. Suspended sediment was restricted to the bottom mixing layer, with sharp vertical gradients of up to 40 mg L−1 m−1 observed at the edge of the layer. The observations presented here are intended to offer guidance to numerical sediment modelers about likely SSC under strong NLIW.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JC017538
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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