Suspended sediment transport around a large-scale laboratory breaker bar

J. van der Zanden* (Corresponding Author), D. A. van der A, D. Hurther, I. Cáceres, T. O'Donoghue, J. S. Ribberink

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper presents novel insights into suspended sediment concentrations and fluxes under a large-scale laboratory plunging wave. Measurements of sediment concentrations and velocities were taken at 12 locations around an evolving breaker bar, covering the complete breaking region from shoaling to inner surf zone, with particular high resolution near the bed using an Acoustic Concentration and Velocity Profiler. Wave breaking evidently affects sediment pick-up rates, which increase by an order of magnitude from shoaling to breaking zone. Time-averaged reference concentrations correlate poorly with periodic and time-averaged near-bed velocities, but correlate significantly with near-bed time-averaged turbulent kinetic energy. The net depth-integrated suspended transport is offshore-directed and primarily attributed to current-related fluxes (undertow) at outer-flow elevations (i.e. above the wave bottom boundary layer). The wave-related suspended transport is onshore-directed and is generally confined to the wave bottom boundary layer. Cross-shore gradients of sediment fluxes are quantified to explain spatial patterns of sediment pick-up and deposition and of cross-shore sediment advection. Suspended particles travel back and forth between the breaking and shoaling zones following the orbital motion, leading to local intra-wave concentration changes. At locations between the breaker bar crest and bar trough, intra-wave concentration changes are due to a combination of horizontal advection and of vertical exchange with the bedload layer: sediment is entrained in the bar trough during the wave trough phase, almost instantly advected offshore, and deposited near the bar crest during the wave crest phase. Finally, these results are used to suggest improvements for suspended sediment transport models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-69
Number of pages19
JournalCoastal Engineering
Early online date22 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors wish to thank the staff of CIEMLAB (Joaquim Sospedra, Oscar Galego and Ricardo Torres) and Mick Poppe from the University of Twente for their contributions to the experiments. We are also grateful to fellow SINBAD researchers and to prof. Peter Thorne for their feedback on preliminary results and to two anonymous reviewers and prof. dr. Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher for their feedback on the draft manuscript. The research presented in this paper is part of the SINBAD project, funded by STW (12058) and EPSRC (EP/J00507X/1, EP/J005541/1). We further acknowledge the European Community’s FP7 project Hydralab IV (contract no. 261520) for funding the accompanying SandT-Pro experiments and the ACVP development by CNRS-LEGI (D. Hurther, P.-A. Barraud, J.-M. Barnoud).


  • breaking waves
  • sediment transport
  • suspended sediment
  • wave bottom boundary layer
  • surf zone
  • wave flume experiment


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