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Impact of winter storms on sediment erosion in the Rhone River prodelta and fate of sediment in the Gulf of Lions (North Western Mediterranean Sea)

December 2, 2013

In this study a three-dimensional sediment transport model was developed. The model accounts for both current and wave forcing on the sediment and was implemented over the Gulf of Lions. A two-way nesting technique was used to focus on the Rhone River prodelta which is considered as a sink for riverine sediment. In addition, to understand the resuspension of trapped sediment over the Rhone prodelta, an in situ experiment, called SCOPE, was conducted during the winter 2007–2008. The experiment consisted of measuring hydro-sedimentary parameters using a mooring station comprising a current profiler (ADCP) and an altimeter (acoustic transducer) located in the eastern part of the Rhone prodelta. The three-dimensional transport model was validated using these data, and used to investigate the effect of sediment dynamics at the prodelta and Gulf of Lions scale. Both modelling and data analysis highlighted the impact of the two strong storms from the south-east which characterised the experimental period. Erosion of bed material (about 2 cm) and an increase in suspended material (up to about 50–100 mg/l) in the water were the result of each storm as recorded at the mooring station. The erosion capacity due to waves, combined with a strong current, due to both wind and wave forcing, resulted in strong south-westward export over the whole prodelta. Each storm was responsible for an off-prodelta export estimated at around 2.1 Mt. This study demonstrates that the Rhone River sediments trapped over the Rhone prodelta are subject to strong resuspension during episodic events.

Dufois F, Verney R, Le Hir P, Dumas F, Charmasson S, in press. Impact of winter storms on sediment erosion in the Rhone River prodelta and fate of sediment in the Gulf of Lions (North Western Mediterranean Sea), Continental Shelf Research, 72, 57-72, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2013.11.004. Article.

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