An explanatory model for the burial of fines in the sandy seabed of the southern North Sea

E. Hendriks*, B. C. van Prooijen, C. H. Cheng, S. G.J. Aarninkhof, J. C. Winterwerp, K. E. Soetaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The amount of suspended fines in the southern North Sea strongly depends on their exchange with the sandy seabed. This exchange is governed by resuspension of fines during storms, followed by burial in the week thereafter. Despite its importance for fine sediment dynamics, the burial of fines into a sandy seabed is currently not well understood. This paper presents a mechanistic conceptual model, explaining how the interaction of migrating small ripples and larger megaripples can bury fine sediment in a sandy seabed shortly after storms. The burial process consists of four phases forming a dynamic cycle. A storm stirs up the bed, remobilising fines, while forming megaripples. After the storm, fines can settle again depositing atop the sandy seabed. Interaction between bedforms of different scales is then crucial to bury fines 1–2 dm within the seabed. Megaripples formed during storms gradually adjust to calmer conditions in the waning of storms. During this adjustment period, fines are buried by current-induced ripples in the troughs of the former megaripples. Field measurements collected in 2017 corroborate this conceptual model, showing fines in distinct patches, both horizontally and vertically. Furthermore, fines are found up to 10–15 cm in the seabed shortly after storms. The data further reveal how fine sediment occurrences on and within the seabed vary strongly over multiple length scales. They both vary on the mega-scale (kilometres) and on the micro-scale (metres-centimetres). As the micro-scale is multiple orders of magnitude smaller than the scale on which hydro-morphological models operate, parameterisations are required to aggregate the effect of burial in numerical models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106953
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bedforms
  • Fines
  • North Sea
  • Seabed
  • Storms


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