Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
Earth Surf. Dynam., 2, 309–321, 2014

Special issue: Frontiers in river, coastal and estuarine morphodynamics

Earth Surf. Dynam., 2, 309–321, 2014
Research article
03 Jun 2014
Research article | 03 Jun 2014

Morphological coupling in multiple sandbar systems – a review

T. D. Price1,*, B. G. Ruessink1, and B. Castelle2 T. D. Price et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2UMR EPOC, Université de Bordeaux 1, Bordeaux, France
  • *now at: Department of Ecological Science, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. Subtidal sandbars often exhibit alongshore variable patterns, such as crescentic plan shapes and rip channels. While the initial formation of these patterns is reasonably well understood, the morphodynamic mechanisms underlying their subsequent finite-amplitude behaviour have been examined far less extensively. This behaviour concerns, among other aspects, the coupling of alongshore variable patterns in an inner bar to similar patterns in a more seaward bar, and the destruction of crescentic patterns. This review aims to present the current state of knowledge on the finite-amplitude behaviour of crescentic sandbars, with a focus on morphological coupling in double sandbar systems. In this context we include results from our recent study, based on a combination of remote-sensing observations, numerical modelling and data–model integration. Morphological coupling is an inherent property of double sandbar systems, where the inner bar may attain a type of morphology not found in single bar systems. Coupling is governed by water depth variability along the outer-bar crest and by various wave characteristics, including the offshore wave height and angle of incidence. In recent research, the role of the angle of wave incidence for sandbar morphodynamics has received more attention. Numerical modelling results have demonstrated that the angle of wave incidence is crucial to the flow pattern, sediment transport, and thus the emerging morphology of the coupled inner bar. Moreover, crescentic patterns predominantly vanish under high-angle wave conditions, highlighting the role of alongshore currents in straightening sandbars and challenging the traditional conception that crescentic patterns vanish under high-energy, erosive wave conditions only.