A Model Study of the Estuarine Turbidity Maximum along the Main Channel of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Academic Article uri icon


  • A three-dimensional, intratidal sediment transport model is developed for the estuarine turbidity maximum (ETM) in the upper Chesapeake Bay. The model considers three particle size classes, including the fine class mostly in suspension in the water column, the medium class alternately suspended and deposited by tidal currents, and the coarse size suspended only during the times of relatively high energy events. Based on the results of a box model, depth-limited erosion with continuous deposition is employed for the medium and coarse classes by varying the critical shear stress for erosion as a function of eroded mass. For the fine class, mutually exclusive erosion and deposition is employed with a small constant value for the critical shear stresses for erosion and deposition to assure quick erosion of recently deposited fine particles but without allowing further erosion of consolidated bed sediments. The model is run to simulate the annual condition in 1996, and the model generally gives a reasonable reproduction of the observed characteristics of the ETM relative to the salt limit and tidal phase. The model results for 1996 are analyzed to study the characteristics of the ETM along the main channel of the upper bay in intertidal and intratidal time scales. Under a low flow condition, local erosion/deposition and bottom horizontal flux convergence are the main processes responsible for the formation of the ETM, with the settling flux confining the ETM to the bottom water. Under a high flow condition, a distinctive ETM is formed by strong convergence of the downstream flux of sediments eroded from the upstream of the null zone and the upstream flux of sediments settled at the downstream of the null zone. Intratidal variation of the ETM is mainly controlled by erosion and the tidal transport of eroded sediments for a low flow condition. Under the direct influence of a high flow event, the ETM is mainly formed by erosion during ebbing tidal current strengthened by large freshwater discharge and by convergence of ebbing freshwater discharge and flooding tidal current. During the rebounding stage of a high flow event, intratidal variations are mainly controlled by tidal asymmetry caused by the interaction between tidal currents, gravitational circulation, and stratification. 2007 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.

published proceedings

  • Estuaries and Coasts

author list (cited authors)

  • Park, K., Wang, H. V., Kim, S., & Oh, J.

citation count

  • 25

publication date

  • February 2008