Dynamics of sand and mud mixtures: a multiprocess-based modelling strategy

Mixed sediments are constituted of cohesive and non-cohesive materials with distinct behaviours that numerical models traditionally manage separately. This paper first introduces a rapid state of the Art in sediment transport modelling in order to point out the specific requirements for process-based models applied to mixed sediments. Based on a preliminary study by Waeles et al. (2007), which showed the validity of the advection approach to compute fine sand transport, a complete modelling strategy is described: it is applied to the suspended transport of sand and mud mixtures, and accounts for consolidation of mixed sediments. Special care is paid to the realistic representation of the structure and density of sand and mud mixtures, and to the segregation in consolidating sediment layers. The model state variables are the different classes of particles, generally classified according to their size, and grouped into categories that are either transported as bedload or in suspension. The bed is described as thin layers characterised by a distribution of these classes. The erosion law for fine sands and for sand and mud mixtures is a function of the excess shear stress calibrated against measurements in a small flume. The transition between cohesive and non-cohesive behaviours is parameterised through a critical mud fraction that depends on the sand grain size: the coarser the sand, the higher the mud content before the sediment becomes cohesive. The consolidation module is based on Gibson equation formulated for each class, and modified to account for segregation. Constitutive relationships are calibrated by means of laboratory settling tests. In the deposition module, new deposits may be managed in different ways (creation of a new layer or integration into the existing surficial layer) depending on the mud fraction and its relative concentration. When deposited material is mixed with the surficial sediment, pores between coarser particles are first filled up with finer particles before increasing the layer thickness. The new modelling frame has first been used to simulate laboratory settling tests with mixed sediments. When the initial mixture density is low, sand particles can settle through the mud and form a dense sandy layer on the bottom. In a second application, the model is used to describe sorting processes when tidal currents re-suspend a sand and mud mixture. A sand layer is then likely to form within the sediment, while the surficial layers are muddier. A dynamic bed armouring process is shown: although sand is easily resuspended, eroded grains in the sand layer settle rapidly, reducing the erosion of underlying sediment. Resulting suspended sediment concentration is strongly reduced, as well as sediment fluxes. The application demonstrates the model ability to simulate layering processes and time-variations of sediment erodibility.


Sediment transport modelling, Mixed sediment, Sand, Mud, Suspension, Consolidation

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Le Hir Pierre, Cayocca Florence, Waeles Benoit (2011). Dynamics of sand and mud mixtures: a multiprocess-based modelling strategy. Continental Shelf Research. 31 (10). S135-S149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2010.12.009, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00028/13952/

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