In the winter of 1996-1997, three bottom-boundary layer tripods were placed in an alongshelf array on the northern California continental shelf off Eureka, CA in 60-65-m water depth. During the observation period, multiple storms and river discharge events occurred, as well as the largest flood on record since 1964. Suspended-sediment concentration at all three sites fluctuated in response to both wave resuspension and advection of river-derived sediments. However, considerable spatial differences in low-frequency currents and suspended-sediment concentration were observed at the three sites. Sediment flux vectors calculated during periods of high suspended-sediment concentration suggest a convergence of sediment flux coincident with the center of recent flood deposits. Suspended-sediment concentrations observed at the two northern tripod sites following the large flood reached magnitudes typical of fluid mud (> 10 g/l) in a thin near-bed layer. The net sediment flux during the single three-day event was two orders of magnitude larger than any other event during the winter, and accounted for seven times the flux observed over an entire year (1995-1996). A conceptual model for the advection of sediment to the mid shelf is proposed in which river plume sediments are trapped on the inner shelf either due to a weak front or the rapid input of sediment from a confined plume, and form a thin layer of fluid mud. The fluid mud subsequently is transported seaward due to gravitational forcing. The measured sediment concentration and velocity profiles on the shelf provide strong evidence to support this conclusion. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
Additional publication details
Observations of storm and river flood-driven sediment transport on the northern California continental shelf