Coastal Engineering 46 (2002) 175 211
Temporal and spatial variations of surf-zone currents and
suspended sediment concentration
Ping Wang a,*, Bruce A. Ebersole b, Ernest R. Smith b, Bradley D. Johnson b
Department of Geology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Folwer Avenue, SCA 528 Tampa, FL 33620, USA
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Coastal and Hydraulic Laboratory,
3909 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180, USA
Received 16 November 2001; received in revised form 22 May 2002; accepted 14 June 2002
Temporal and spatial variations of surf-zone currents and suspended sediment concentrations were investigated at the U.S.
Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Large-scale Sediment Transport Facility (LSTF). A longshore-uniform
fine-sand beach, 35 m alongshore, 20 m cross-shore, and 25 cm thick was placed in the facility for these experiments. Two
unidirectional, long-crested irregular wave conditions were examined, one resulted in predominantly spilling breakers and one
in plunging breakers. Waves and currents, and sediment concentrations were measured at 20 and 16 Hz, respectively, at various
longshore and cross-shore locations and throughout the water column. Both currents and sediment concentrations exhibit great
temporal and spatial variations in the surf zone. The variation patterns, however, of the longshore current, cross-shore current,
and sediment concentration are substantially different. Caution should be exercised when averaging these parameters over time
For the two wave cases examined, the temporal variations of longshore current, including those at principal incident-wave
frequencies, were relatively small across most of the surf zone. Over 70% of the variations are within approximately F 60% of
the mean value. The wave motion, with a strong peak at principal incident-wave frequencies, dominated the temporal variations
of cross-shore current. Temporal variations of suspended sediment concentration under the irregular waves were episodic,
characterized by occasional large values induced by suspension events or due to horizontal advection. The variance of the
concentration at the peak incident-wave frequency was not significant except very near the bed.
Time-averaged longshore-current profiles over the predominantly rippled sand bed were logarithmic in shape below the
wave trough. Depth-averaged longshore current (excluding the portion of water column above wave trough) matched well
with the current measured at an elevation of 1/3 of the water depth from the bed. Time-averaged cross-shore current profiles
were characterized by an onshore mass flux near the surface, and a balancing offshore flow below the wave-trough level
(undertow). Sediment concentration decreased very rapidly upward through the water column across most of the surf zone
except at the plunging breaker line where relatively homogeneous concentration was measured throughout much of the water
column above 4 cm from the bed. Depth-averaged sediment concentration over the range from 1 cm above the bed to the
bottom of wave trough roughly equaled the concentration measured at an elevation from the bed equal to 20% of the still-
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-813-974-9170; fax: +1-813-974-2654.
E-mail address: email@example.com (P. Wang).
0378-3839/02/$ - see front matter D 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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