Simulation of wave damping during a cold front over the muddy Atchafalaya shelf

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The Atchafalaya Shelf off the Louisiana coast in the United States is characterized by fine grained sediments dispersing into the shelf from the lower Atchafalaya River and Wax Lake outlets. Rapid seaward flushing of the sediment-laden river plumes, due to water level set-down during cold front passages forms a fluid mud layer close to the bottom, which effectively dampens the wave energy. In this study, the performance of a phase-averaged spectral wave model was skill assessed based on the wave data recorded close to the southern periphery of the mud zone during several days in March 2009. Separation of wave spectra into sea and swell partitions showed that the wave model overestimated the sea waves generated by northerly wind during the cold front passage. A non-stationary scheme was needed to solve the wave action balance equation to include the wind dynamics during the cold front passages over the study area. A recently developed mud-induced dissipation term was improved by modifying its algorithm for solving the implicit dispersion equation. The modified model became efficient enough to be used for non-stationary calculations. The thickness, density, kinematic viscosity of the mud layer, and its offshore extent were determined by trial and error. The mud-induced energy dissipation term enabled the model to reproduce the energy attenuation of short waves by the fluid mud. A high value of mud viscosity (0.01-0.1m /s) was required to obtain good agreement with in situ measurements when the maximum wave height occurred. However, the model using lower values of mud viscosity (0.001-0.01m /s) was more successful in reproducing the measured wave spectra from a few hours after the maximum wave activity. The simulation results also showed that presence of fluid mud with high value of mud viscosity hindered the wave growth in shallow water due to suppression of high frequency waves. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. 2 2

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Continental Shelf Research

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