Sand suspension and fluxes by wave groups and equivalent monochromatic waves

Joep van der Zanden (Corresponding Author), Dominic A. Van der A, Peter D. Thorne, Tom O'Donoghue, Jan S. Ribberink

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Sand transport dynamics under non-breaking regular waves and wave groups are studied in a large-scale wave flume. The water surface elevation, flow velocity, suspended sand concentration (SSC) distributions, and bedforms were measured over a horizontal test section of medium sand. The experiment involved five wave groups that had equal root-mean-square water surface elevation and mean period, but which differed in terms of modulation, wave group length, and short wave sequencing. In addition, three monochromatic wave conditions were generated which were equivalent to the wave groups in terms of root-mean-square water surface elevation or maximum wave height. Temporal and vertical distributions of SSC suggest a more effective sediment pumping for symmetric and backward leaning ‘waxing’ wave groups. Vertical distributions of the SSC phase lag indicate a more rapid vertical pumping for the short duration wave group. Overall, the differences between wave group conditions are small and the time-averaged SSC and sediment diffusivity profiles are very similar. The total net suspended sand flux consists of current-related, long-wave-related and short-wave-related contributions that are all of similar magnitude. The net total suspended sand flux was always offshore31 directed, but its magnitude depends on the vertical and temporal variation of SSC at short- and long-wave time scales. The results are used to discuss the applicability of the ‘equivalent wave concept’ for time-averaged SSC distributions and net suspended sand transport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-104
Number of pages20
JournalContinental Shelf Research
Early online date19 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019

Bibliographical note

We thank the technical staff of the UPC CIEMLAB and Sjoerd van Til for their contributions to the experiments, and the editor and an anonymous reviewer for their useful feedback on the manuscript. The experimental work was supported by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme through the grant to the budget of the Integrating Activity HYDRALAB IV within the Transnational Access Activities, Contract no. 261520, with additional funding from the Dutch Technology Foundation STW (project 12058) and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC, grant number EP/J00507X/1) through the SINBAD project. JvdZ was funded through the European Community’s H2020 Programme HYDRALAB+ (Contract no. 654110). The presented data are stored in the 4TU online data repository (


  • suspended sand
  • sediment transport
  • wave groups
  • wave flume experiment
  • sand ripples
  • acoustic backscatter sensor
  • Wave flume experiment
  • Sand ripples
  • Suspended sand
  • Wave groups
  • Acoustic backscatter sensor
  • Sediment transport


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