Intertidal finger bars at El Puntal, Bay of Santander, Spain: observation and forcing analysis
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A system of 15 small-scale finger bars has been observed, by using video imagery, between 23 June 2008 and 2 June 2010. The bar system is located in the intertidal zone of the swell-protected beaches of El Puntal Spit, in the Bay of Santander (northern coast of Spain). The bars appear on a planar beach (slope = 0.015) with fine, uniform sand (D50 = 0.27 mm) and extend 600 m alongshore. The cross-shore span of the bars is determined by the tidal horizontal excursion (between 70 and 130 m). They have an oblique orientation with respect to the low-tide shoreline; specifically, they are down-current-oriented with respect to the dominant sand transport computed (mean angle of 26° from the shore normal). Their mean wavelength is 26 m and their amplitude varies between 10 and 20 cm. The full system slowly migrates to the east (sand transport direction) with a mean speed of 0.06 m day-1, a maximum speed in winter (up to 0.15 m day-1) and a minimum speed in summer. An episode of merging has been identified as bars with larger wavelength seem to migrate more slowly than shorter bars. The wind blows predominantly from the west, generating waves that transport sediment across the bars during high-tide periods. This is the main candidate to explain the eastward migration of the system. In particular, the wind can generate waves of up to 20 cm (root-mean-squared wave height) over a fetch that can reach 4.5 km at high tide. The astronomical tide seems to be important in the bar dynamics, as the tidal level changes the fetch and also determines the time of exposure of the bars to the surf-zone waves and currents. Furthermore, the river discharge could act as input of suspended sediment in the bar system and play a role in the bar dynamics.