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Visiting Students from the Netherlands Contribute to Modeling Morphologic Change in the Pacific Northwest

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Emiel MoermanAbove: Emiel Moerman. [larger version]

Martijn Monden
Above: Martijn Monden. [larger version]

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Guy Gelfenbaum and the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center are sponsoring two visiting student scientists, Emiel Moerman and Martijn Monden, for 2 1/2 months this summer in Menlo Park, California. Both students are working on their M.S. degrees in Coastal Engineering at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. Their projects are part of a Cooperative Agreement between the USGS and Deltares (an independent Dutch research institute in the field of water management and building in delta areas) to conduct joint research on coastal-sediment transport and morphodynamics.

Emiel Moerman is working with Gelfenbaum and with Edwin Elias, a visiting scientist from Deltares, on morphological modeling of the mouth of the Columbia River. Anthropogenic influences, such as jetty construction and river damming, have resulted in pronounced morphological changes in the Columbia River littoral cell, an area of the coast that is isolated sedimentologically from adjacent coastal areas. The processes responsible for the morphological changes within this complex area are not fully understood. Process-based numerical modeling of sediment transport and morphologic change is widely recognized as a valuable approach for understanding and predicting coastal morphological evolution. Therefore, USGS and Deltares are collaborating on the development of process-based numerical models to better understand the morphodynamics of the Columbia River littoral cell. The overarching aim of this study is to develop and test methods and modeling approaches in the application of long-term morphologic modeling of the mouth of the Columbia River. The estuary of the Columbia River is the most important link in the sediment budget of the Columbia River littoral cell. As a consequence of the jetty constructions and river damming, the ebb-tidal delta of the Columbia River moved offshore, and the main channel deepened and stabilized in position. Adjacent shores initially underwent rapid accretion (building seaward) as a consequence of the jetty constructions, but this accretion was followed by equally rapid erosion. Calibration and validation of long-term morphological modeling of the mouth of the Columbia River is necessary to make long-term predictions, to identify the influences of the different processes on the morphological change, and ultimately to support management decisions.

Martijn Monden is working with Gelfenbaum, Eric Grossman, Andrew Stevens, and Edwin Elias on morphodynamic modeling of restoration of the Nisqually River delta in Puget Sound. Since the late 1800s, large parts of Puget Sound have been diked for agricultural purposes, resulting in the loss of nearly 80 percent of intertidal wetlands. These wetlands play an important role as a habitat for waterbirds, salmon populations, and numerous species of plants, and in filtering the water from sediments and contaminants. Multiple large-scale projects are currently underway to restore these critical habitats, bringing back natural fluvial, estuarine, and tidal processes. One of the largest of these projects takes place in the Nisqually Delta, where in November 2009 the Brown Farm Dike was removed, reconnecting an area of 308 ha (1.2 mi2) of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge with Puget Sound. The goal of this project is to research what will happen to the morphology of the Nisqually Delta area after the dike removal. This research will be conducted by means of numerical modeling, using the modeling program Delft3D, with special focus on the influence of vegetation. Model results will be compared with field observations, obtained as part of the Nisqually River delta-restoration-monitoring program.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Students from the Netherlands Contributing to USGS Studies in Florida
February 2005

Related Web Sites
Nisqually Delta Restoration

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Coastal Erosion at Cape Hatteras, NC

Geological Impacts of the Feb. 2010 Tsunami in Chile

USGS Tracks Sediment on Molokai's Reef

ResearchSignificant Natural-Gas Potential in Nile Delta

Outreach Girl Scouts Explore Geology

Earth Science Day in Menlo Park, CA

Meetings Knowledge Management Workshop

Awards David Rubin to Receive Pettijohn Medal

Staff Students Contribute to Modeling Morphologic Change

Publications July 2010 Publications

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