Assessing the Hydro-Morphodynamic Response of a Beach Protected by Detached, Impermeable, Submerged Breakwaters: A Numerical Approach
Coastal areas host a large fraction of the world's population and are exposed to natural extreme events, which are a serious threat to human life, as well as to economies. For this reason, sea storms are increasingly the object of studies, and the design of traditional coastal defenses is being carried out in conjunction with modeling analyses. Relying on numerical simulations performed by means of an innovative shallow-water hydro-morphodynamic model, the present work explores the overall response of a protected beach to sea storms. Numerical tests evaluate the effects of sea states extracted from realistic sea storms having different spectral characteristics, as well as the influence on beach morphology of positioning shore-parallel, impermeable, submerged breakwaters. Simulation results revealed that, while erosion/accretion patterns depend weakly on the different sea state conditions, the morphodynamics induced around the barriers is strongly influenced by the breakwaters' positioning. More specifically, at least for the forcing here analyzed, bed variations were shown to increase when the structures are progressively located offshore; on the other hand, the swash zone morphology seems to be only weakly influenced by the positioning of the breakwaters. We also observed that for an increasing extension of the volume over which dissipative breaking mechanisms occur, a decreasing inshore erosion is accompanied by an equally fast decrease of offshore erosion. Analysis of the vorticity fields shows that breakwaters placed far from the shoreline induce an evolution of the vortices generated by breaking waves rather different from the one due to breakwaters placed closer to the shoreline (which can induce seaward flows through the gap, like rip currents).