The characteristics and dynamics of wave-driven flow across a platform coral reef in the Red Sea

S. J. Lentz, J. H. Churchill, K. A. Davis, J. T. Farrar, J. Pineda, V. Starczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Current dynamics across a platform reef in the Red Sea near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are examined using 18 months of current profile, pressure, surface wave, and wind observations. The platform reef is 700 m long, 200 m across with spatial and temporal variations in water depth over the reef ranging from 0.6 to 1.6 m. Surface waves breaking at the seaward edge of the reef cause a 2-10 cm setup of sea level that drives cross-reef currents of 5-20 cm s-1. Bottom stress is a significant component of the wave setup balance in the surf zone. Over the reef flat, where waves are not breaking, the cross-reef pressure gradient associated with wave setup is balanced by bottom stress. The quadratic drag coefficient for the depth-average flow decreases with increasing water depth from Cda = 0.17 in 0.4 m of water to Cda = 0.03 in 1.2 m of water. The observed dependence of the drag coefficient on water depth is consistent with open-channel flow theory and a hydrodynamic roughness of zo = 0.06 m. A simple one-dimensional model driven by incident surface waves and wind stress accurately reproduces the observed depth-averaged cross-reef currents and a portion of the weaker along-reef currents over the focus reef and two other Red Sea platform reefs. The model indicates the cross-reef current is wave forced and the along-reef current is partially wind forced.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1360-1376
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 29 2016
Externally publishedYes


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