Cross-shore transport of nearshore sediment by river plume frontal pumping

Alexander R. Horner-Devine*, Julie D. Pietrzak, Alejandro J. Souza, Margaret A. McKeon, Saulo Meirelles, Martijn Henriquez, Raúl P. Flores, Sabine Rijnsburger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


We present a new mechanism for cross-shore transport of fine sediment from the nearshore to the inner shelf resulting from the onshore propagation of river plume fronts. Onshore frontal propagation is observed in moorings and radar images, which show that fronts penetrate onshore through the nearshore and surf zone, almost to the waterline. During frontal passage a two-layer counterrotating velocity field characteristic of tidal straining is immediately set up, generating a net offshore flow beneath the plume. The seaward flow at depth carries with it high suspended sediment concentrations, which appear to have been generated by wave resuspension in the nearshore region. These observations describe a mechanism by which vertical density stratification can drive exchange of material between the nearshore region and the inner shelf. To our knowledge these are the first observations of this frontal pumping mechanism, which is expected to play an important role in sediment transport near river mouths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6343-6351
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017


  • cross-shore transport
  • fronts
  • Rhine
  • river plume
  • sediment
  • surf zone


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