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Numerical Modelling of a Macrotidal Bay over the Last 9,000 Years: An Interdisciplinary Methodology to Understand the Influence of Sea-Level Variations on Tidal Currents in the Bay of Brest

Abstract : Estuaries play a major role in the transfer of sediments from the continents to the shelves and deep ocean basins. Their position at the interface between land and sea promotes them as a key area for the understanding of ocean sediment supply, but yet long-term evolution remains poorly understood. The main reasons of the lack of knowledge about estuaries filling are the lack of hydrodynamic data in the past and the temporal application of numerical models. Oceanographers and geologists have developed numerical models to simulate currents and sedimentation. On one hand, hydro-sediment models allow a good physical representation of estuarine hydrodynamic processes and their impact on sedimentation, but only over time-scale spanning years to decades. On the other hand, stratigraphic diffusive models aim to study the impact of various geological processes on sedimentary basins over millions of years, but they are unable to describe in detail the tidal hydrodynamic processes that govern estuaries. In response to this timescale issue, this study presents a first step attempt to explore the evolution of tidal current distribution in relation with Holocene eustatic variations and seafloor evolution. Here we focus on a macro-tidal estuary, the bay of Brest, where tidal processes dominate, as the estuary is naturally protected from ocean swells. This paper aims to set up a methodology to simulate the (past) tidal currents over a long time period and correlate them with sedimentary data. Major changes in deposit dynamics are first identified from cores and seismic data, and the corresponding paleo-topographies and paleo-sea-levels are rebuilt. A process-based hydrodynamic model (MARS3D) is then used to test the impacts of these paleo-bathymetries on hydrodynamics over a 1-year time span. Four scenarii have been considered, representing four key stages of the Holocene transgression in the Bay of Brest. The simulated barotropic currents distributions were analysed and bottom currents impact on the seafloor compared with sedimentary records to understand past hydrodynamic context and associated sediment spatial distribution over geological time scale. Hydrodynamic simulations and sediments records are linked, in order to propose a reconstruction of the tidal influence on sediments over the last 9000 years. The results show changes of the tidal patterns related to the paleoenvironmental evolution (bathymetry and sea-level variations). Even if a hydro-sediment model would be needed to make a direct correlation between simulated currents and sediment records, this successful application in the Bay of Brest shows that discontinuous modelling can help to understand tidal current evolution and their impact on sediment distribution over long periods.
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Submitted on : Thursday, December 2, 2021 - 3:11:36 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 4, 2022 - 6:23:00 AM

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Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Matthieu Guillaume Olivier, Estelle Leroux, Marina Rabineau, Pierre Le Hir, Didier Granjeon, et al.. Numerical Modelling of a Macrotidal Bay over the Last 9,000 Years: An Interdisciplinary Methodology to Understand the Influence of Sea-Level Variations on Tidal Currents in the Bay of Brest. Continental Shelf Research, Elsevier, 2021, 231, pp.104595. ⟨10.1016/j.csr.2021.104595⟩. ⟨hal-03463571⟩

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