Articles | Volume 18, issue 1
Research article
22 Jan 2014
Research article |  | 22 Jan 2014

Linking the river to the estuary: influence of river discharge on tidal damping

H. Cai, H. H. G. Savenije, and M. Toffolon

Abstract. The effect of river discharge on tidal damping in estuaries is explored within one consistent theoretical framework where analytical solutions are obtained by solving four implicit equations, i.e. the phase lag, the scaling, the damping and the celerity equation. In this approach the damping equation is obtained by subtracting the envelope curves of high water and low water occurrence, taking into account that the flow velocity consists of a tidal and river discharge component. Different approximations of the friction term are considered in deriving the damping equation, resulting in as many analytical solutions. In this framework it is possible to show that river discharge affects tidal damping primarily through the friction term. It appears that the residual slope, due to nonlinear friction, can have a substantial influence on tidal wave propagation when including the effect of river discharge. An iterative analytical method is proposed to include this effect, which significantly improved model performance in the upper reaches of an estuary. The application to the Modaomen and Yangtze estuaries demonstrates that the proposed analytical model is able to describe the main tidal dynamics with realistic roughness values in the upper part of the estuary where the ratio of river flow to tidal flow amplitude is substantial, while a model with negligible river discharge can be made to fit observations only with unrealistically high roughness values.