Tidal river dynamics: Implications for deltas

A.J.F. Hoitink*, D.A. Jay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Tidal rivers are a vital and little studied nexus between physical oceanography and hydrology. It is only in the last few decades that substantial research efforts have been focused on the interactions of river discharge with tidal waves and storm surges into regions beyond the limit of salinity intrusion, a realm that can extend inland hundreds of kilometers. One key phenomenon resulting from this interaction is the emergence of large fortnightly tides, which are forced long waves with amplitudes that may increase beyond the point where astronomical tides have become extinct. These can be larger than the linear tide itself at more landward locations, and they greatly influence tidal river water levels and wetland inundation. Exploration of the spectral redistribution and attenuation of tidal energy in rivers has led to new appreciation of a wide range of consequences for fluvial and coastal sedimentology, delta evolution, wetland conservation, and salinity intrusion under the influence of sea level rise and delta subsidence. Modern research aims at unifying traditional harmonic tidal analysis, nonparametric regression techniques, and the existing understanding of tidal hydrodynamics to better predict and model tidal river dynamics both in single-thread channels and in branching channel networks. In this context, this review summarizes results from field observations and modeling studies set in tidal river environments as diverse as the Amazon in Brazil, the Columbia, Fraser and Saint Lawrence in North America, the Yangtze and Pearl in China, and the Berau and Mahakam in Indonesia. A description of state-of-the-art methods for a comprehensive analysis of water levels, wave propagation, discharges, and inundation extent in tidal rivers is provided. Implications for lowland river deltas are also discussed in terms of sedimentary deposits, channel bifurcation, avulsion, and salinity intrusion, addressing contemporary research challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-272
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Volume54
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • delta evolution
  • estuaries
  • river discharge
  • tidal analysis
  • tidal river
  • wetlands

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