Storm induced hydrodynamics and sediment transport in a coastal Louisiana lake

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Coupled hydrodynamic modeling and sediment core analysis was used to investigate Hurricane Rita hydrodynamic conditions and associated sediment dynamics in Sister Lake, a shallow coastal lake in Terrebonne Basin, Louisiana. Tropical cyclone impacts on wetland, terrestrial, and shelf systems have been previously studied and reasonably delineated, but little is known about the response of coastal lakes to storm events. This initial investigation of tropical cyclone impacts on a shallow coastal lake clarifies sediment transport and deposition patterns in a geologically complex deltaic region. Modeling results from Hurricane Rita forcing conditions hindcast a maximum storm surge elevation of approximately 1.1m and a significant wave height of 1.0m in Sister Lake. Bed shear stresses across almost the entire model domain leading up to Hurricane Rita's landfall were above the critical value causing erosion of fine-grained bottom sediments, and quickly decreased in the western portion during Rita's landfall, indicating significant deposition in this western portion of the lake. The ideal event sedimentation unit that would result from the storm conditions hindcast from the numerical model was corroborated with stratigraphy identified in box cores; sedimentary units with an erosional base overlain by recently deposited silty material topped by clays. This study provides a fundamental understanding of lake bottom characteristics and impacts of storm-related physical processes on erosion and deposition.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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