A study of in-situ sediment flocculation in the turbidity maxima of the Yangtze Estuary

Chao Guo, Qing He*, Leicheng Guo, Johan C. Winterwerp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In order to improve our understandings of temporal and vertical variations of sediment flocculation dynamics within the turbidity maxima (TM) of the highly turbid Yangtze Estuary (YE), we deployed LISST-100C, a laser instrument for in-situ monitor of the sizes and concentrations of flocculated particles in a wet season. Field data in terms of vertical profiles of flow velocity, suspended sediment concentration (SSC), salinity, flocculated particle size distribution and volume concentration were obtained, based on field works conducted at consecutive spring, moderate, and neap tides. Data analyses show that the mean floc diameters (DM) were in the range of 14–95 μm, and flocculation exhibited strong temporal and vertical variations within a tidal cycle and between spring-neap cycles. Larger DM were observed during high and low slack waters, and the averaged floc size at neap tide was found 57% larger than at spring tide. Effective density of flocs decreased with the increase of floc size, and fractal dimension of flocs in the YE was mainly between 1.5 and 2.1. We also estimated the settling velocity of flocs by 0.04–0.6 mm s−1 and the largest settling velocity occurred also at slack waters. Moreover, it is found that turbulence plays a dominant role in the flocculation process. Floc size decreases significantly when the shear rate parameter G is > 2-3 s−1, suggesting the turbulence breaking force. Combined effects of fine sediment flocculation, enhanced settling process, and high sediment concentration resulted in a large settling flux around high water, which can in part explain the severe siltation in the TM of the YE, thus shedding lights on the navigation channel management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2017


  • Floc settling
  • Sediment flocculation
  • The Yangtze Estuary
  • Turbidity maxima


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