Field measurements and numerical modelling of wind-driven exchange flows in a tidal inlet system in the Dutch Wadden Sea

Roy van Weerdenburg, Stuart Pearson, Bram van Prooijen, Stendert Laan, Edwin Elias, Pieter Koen Tonnon, Zheng Bing Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Multiple tidal inlet systems like the Wadden Sea have long been considered as separated basins, bordered by so-called tidal divides. Recently, it was however shown that fluxes of water and sediment occur over the borders of these basins, especially during wind events. In this paper, the wind-driven fluxes over these borders and the residual flow of water through the main inlet are studied. The study is based on flow measurements at the tidal divides and in the main inlet of the Ameland Inlet system in the Dutch Wadden Sea and on numerical modelling. The measurements were carried out during 40 days in the fall of 2017, including both calm conditions and storm events. Numerical simulations of a full year have been used for upscaling results from the measurements to system scale exchange flows, and to unravel the effects of several mechanisms. The wind-driven variability in exchange flows between back-barrier basins at tidal divides was measured in the field and reproduced by the numerical model. Water level set up increases the water depth and thus the conveyance capacity at tidal divides, such that the exchange flows increase in magnitude. The flow conditions due to wind forcing are similar for both tidal divides of the Ameland Basin. The conveyance capacity and therefore the total volume exchange are however different. This leads to a residual compensation flow through the main inlet, which is directed outward (i.e., in the ebb direction) during winds from the prevailing southwestern wind direction. The net discharge through the main inlet is therefore a consequence of the residual flows over the tidal divides.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105941
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Exchange flows
  • Flow measurements
  • Tidal divides
  • Wadden sea
  • Wind-generated currents


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