Quantifying the suspended sediment discharge to the ocean from the Markham River, Papua New Guinea

Renagi, Ora, Ridd, Peter, and Stieglitz, Thomas (2010) Quantifying the suspended sediment discharge to the ocean from the Markham River, Papua New Guinea. Continental Shelf Research, 30 (9). pp. 1030-1041.

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Abstract

The Markham River is a small river draining a tropical mountain range with altitudes between 1000 and 3000 m and discharges directly into a submarine canyon, the head of which is at 30 m depth and reaches depths of 500 m only 4 km from the shore. As such, the Markham discharge system serves as a possible analogue for rivers discharging onto margins during low stands of sea-level. Located in a tectonically active area and with high rainfall, sediment supply is high and episodic and is sometimes related to catastrophic mountain landslides. The river has an estimated sediment load of 12 Mt yr−1. Occasionally, high energy flows are generated at the river mouth which is evident from the channel morphology and sediment distribution. Profiles of salinity and suspended sediment concentrations (SSC) show that sediment is dispersed via a plume with components at both the surface, intermediate depth along isopycnal surfaces and near the sea bed. The dispersal pattern of the surface freshwater plume is largely determined by the buoyancy force. The surface plume is very thin with salinity gradients 15 ppt m−1 while a Richardson number greater than unity suggested that the mixing zone is highly stratified. Estimates of the horizontal sediment flux gradient of the surface plume along the estuary axis suggest that about 80% of the sediment discharged is lost from the plume within a distance of 2 km from the river mouth. Particle fall velocities estimated from the vertical flux indicate values less than those of flocculated material. Layers of sediment with SSCs between 500 and 1000 mg l−1 were observed at intermediate depths and near the seabed during periods of both high and intermediate discharge. The mass of sediment in a SSC layer at intermediate depths between 150 and 250 m within the canyon channel was estimated to be equivalent to an average of 2 to 3 days of Markham sediment discharge. SSCs near the seabed of between 250 and 750 mg l−1 suggest that layers of significantly elevated density exist near the seabed, moving under the influence of gravity down steep seabed slopes of the Markham canyon.

Item ID: 15575
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: sediment transport; buoyant plumes; hyperpycnal flow; isopycnal surfaces; Markham River; Papua New Guinea
ISSN: 1873-6955
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2011 05:54
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0405 Oceanography > 040503 Physical Oceanography @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960903 Coastal and Estuarine Water Management @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
Downloads: Total: 4
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