Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
Research article
17 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 17 Aug 2012

Three-dimensional modelling of wave-induced current from the surf zone to the inner shelf

H. Michaud, P. Marsaleix, Y. Leredde, C. Estournel, F. Bourrin, F. Lyard, C. Mayet, and F. Ardhuin

Abstract. We develop and implement a new method to take into account the impact of waves into the 3-D circulation model SYMPHONIE (Marsaleix et al., 2008, 2009a) following the simplified equations of Bennis et al. (2011) which use glm2z-RANS theory (Ardhuin et al., 2008c). These adiabatic equations are completed by additional parameterizations of wave breaking, bottom friction and wave-enhanced vertical mixing, making the forcing valid from the surf zone through to the open ocean. The wave forcing is performed by wave generation and propagation models WAVEWATCH III® (Tolman, 2008, 2009; Ardhuin et al., 2010) and SWAN (Booij et al., 1999). The model is tested and compared with other models for a plane beach test case, previously tested by Haas and Warner (2009)and Uchiyama et al. (2010). A comparison is also made with the laboratory measurements of Haller et al. (2002) of a barred beach with channels. Results fit with previous simulations performed by other models and with available observational data.

Finally, a realistic case is simulated with energetic waves travelling over a coast of the Gulf of Lion (in the northwest of the Mediterranean Sea) for which currents are available at different depths as well as an accurate bathymetric database of the 0–10 m depth range. A grid nesting approach is used to account for the different forcings acting at different spatial scales. The simulation coupling the effects of waves and currents is successful to reproduce the powerful northward littoral drift in the 0–15 m depth zone. More precisely, two distinct cases are identified: When waves have a normal angle of incidence with the coast, they are responsible for complex circulation cells and rip currents in the surf zone, and when they travel obliquely, they generate a northward littoral drift. These features are more complicated than in the test cases, due to the complex bathymetry and the consideration of wind and non-stationary processes. Wave impacts in the inner shelf are less visible since wind and regional circulation seem to be the predominant forcings. Besides, a discrepancy between model and observations is noted at that scale, possibly linked to an underestimation of the wind stress.

This three-dimensional method allows a good representation of vertical current profiles and permits the calculation of the shear stress associated with waves and currents. Future work will focus on the combination with a sediment transport model.