Tidal impact on the division of river discharge and distributary channels in the Mahakam Delta

M.G. Sassi, A.J.F. Hoitink, B. de Brye, B. Vermeulen, E. Deleersnijder

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76 Citations (Scopus)


Bifurcations in tidally influenced deltas distribute river discharge over downstream channels, asserting a strong control over terrestrial runoff to the coastal ocean. Whereas the mechanics of river bifurcations is well-understood, junctions in tidal channels have received comparatively little attention in the literature. This paper aims to quantify the tidal impact on subtidal discharge distribution at the bifurcations in the Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The Mahakam Delta is a regular fan-shaped delta, composed of a quasi-symmetric network of rectilinear distributaries and sinuous tidal channels. A depth-averaged version of the unstructured-mesh, finite-element model second-generation Louvain-la-Neuve Ice-ocean Model has been used to simulate the hydrodynamics driven by river discharge and tides in the delta channel network. The model was forced with tides at open sea boundaries and with measured and modeled river discharge at upstream locations. Calibration was performed with water level time series and flow measurements, both spanning a simulation period. Validation was performed by comparing the model results with discharge measurements at the two principal bifurcations in the delta. Results indicate that within 10 to 15 km from the delta apex, the tides alter the river discharge division by about 10% in all bifurcations. The tidal impact increases seaward, with a maximum value of the order of 30%. In general, the effect of tides is to hamper the discharge division that would occur in the case without tides
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2211-2228
JournalOcean Dynamics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • doppler current profiler
  • sediment transport
  • multiscale model
  • flow
  • propagation
  • tides
  • bifurcations
  • friction


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