Spatio-temporal characteristics of small-scale wave–current ripples on the Ameland ebb-tidal delta

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Ebb-tidal deltas are highly dynamic environments affected by both waves and currents that approach the coast under various angles. Among other bedforms of various scales, these hydrodynamics create small-scale bedforms (ripples), which increase the bed roughness and will therefore affect hydrodynamics and sediment transport. In morphodynamic models, sediment transport predictions depend on the roughness height, but the accuracy of these predictors has not been tested for field conditions with strongly mixed (wave–current dominated) forcing. In this study, small-scale bedforms were observed in the field with a 3D Profiling Sonar at five locations on the Ameland ebb-tidal delta, the Netherlands. Hydrodynamic conditions ranged from wave dominated to current dominated, but were mixed most of the time. Small-scale ripples were found on all studied parts of the delta, superimposed on megaripples. Even though a large range of hydrodynamic conditions was encountered, the spatio-temporal variations in small-scale ripple dimensions were relatively small (height n ͌ 0.015 m, length λ ͌ 0.11 m). Also, the ripples were always highly three-dimensional. These small dimensions are probably caused by the fact that the bed consists of relatively fine sediment. Five bedform height predictors were tested, but they all overestimated the ripple heights, partly because they were not created for small grain sizes. Furthermore, the predictors all have a strong dependence on wave- and current-related velocities, whereas the ripple heights measured here were only related to the near-bed orbital velocity. Therefore, ripple heights and lengths in wave–current-dominated, fine-grained coastal areas (D50 < 0.25 mm) may be best estimated by constant values rather than values dependent on the hydrodynamics. In the case of the Ameland ebb-tidal delta, these values were found to be n=0.015 m and λ=0.11 m.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • bedform predictors
  • fine sand
  • sonar
  • three-dimensionality
  • wave–current ripples


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