We hindcast a 110 year period (1860-1970) of morphodynamic behavior of the Western Scheldt estuary by means of a 2-D, high-resolution, process-based model and compare results to a historically unique bathymetric data set. Initially, the model skill decreases for a few decades. Against common perception, the model skill increases after that to become excellent after 110 years. We attribute this to the self-organization of the morphological system which is reproduced correctly by the numerical model. On time scales exceeding decades, the interaction between the major tidal forcing and the confinement of the estuary overrules other uncertainties. Both measured and modeled bathymetries reflect a trend of decreasing energy dissipation, less morphodynamic activity, and thus a more stable morphology over time, albeit that the estuarine adaptation time is long (approximately centuries). Process-based models applied in confined environments and under constant forcing conditions may perform well especially on long (greater than decades) time scales.
- long term
- Western Scheldt