Sediment transport (dis)continuity across a beach-dune profile during an offshore wind event

Bernard O. Bauer, Patrick A. Hesp, Ian J. Walker, Robin G.D. Davidson-Arnott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Flow dynamics and sediment transport responses over a large, vegetated foredune at Prince Edward Island, Canada, during an offshore wind event are examined. Data were collected along an instrumented transect that extended from the dune crest, down the lee-side (seaward) slope of the dune, across a wave-cut scarp, and on to the back-beach. When the wind direction at the dune crest was approximately crest-normal (less than about 15° deviation), the mean near-surface flow directions along the dune slope and on the back beach were generally onshore, indicating reversed (onshore) flow relative to the regional (offshore) wind direction. Although flow patterns were consistent with a lee-side recirculation eddy, large excursions in flow direction were also prevalent, suggesting that the eddy was unstable and alternated with highly turbulent wake flow. As wind direction at the crest veered to greater than 20° from crest-normal, lee-side winds shifted toward strongly alongshore flow with minimal directionally variability. On the dune slope, the wind vectors were slightly offshore whereas on the back-beach they were slightly onshore.Wind speeds and sediment transport were greatest at the foredune crest and declined rapidly downslope due to flow expansion and deceleration in the wake zone as well as to the influence of a sparse vegetation layer. Mean particle counts (averaged over a 15-min interval) derived from laser sensors positioned at the crest were large (7.76 per second) in comparison to those measured in the immediate lee of the crest (0.52 per second) and farther down the dune slope (< 0.13 per second). In contrast, the values were as large as 25.62 per second on the middle of the back-beach, declining rapidly to a value of only 0.24 per second at the dune toe. Transport intensity was highly variable with the largest Activity Parameter (AP = 0.5) values at the dune crest and on the back-beach, and with the smallest values (AP < 0.1) on the lee-side dune slope down to the top of the scarp. Calculations of sediment (particle) flux divergence between instrument stations show that deposition was significant immediately downwind of the dune crest but negligible across most of the lower dune slope. Deposition was also prevalent on the dune ramp below the scarp.These results demonstrate that sediment transport across the beach-dune system was spatially discontinuous during this offshore wind event. Rebuilding of the dune ramp at the toe of the scarp occurred quite independently of, and with a different sediment source than, the broadening of the dune crest, which was fed with sediment from the landward side of the foredune. Such process 'decoupling' is an example of the complexity by which foredunes evolve or are maintained, and as with previous research reinforces the importance of offshore and alongshore wind events to beach-dune morphodynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-148
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015


  • Flux divergence
  • Foredune change
  • Lee-side eddy recirculation
  • Sediment transport
  • Wind steering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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