Articles written in Journal of Earth System Science
Volume 122 Issue 4 August 2013 pp 899-933
Tidal variations in the Sundarbans Estuarine System, India
Meenakshi Chatterjee D Shankar G K Sen P Sanyal D Sundar G S Michael Abhisek Chatterjee P Amol Debabrata Mukherjee K Suprit A Mukherjee V Vijith Siddhartha Chatterjee Anwesha Basu Madhumita Das Saranya Chakraborti Aravind Kalla Surja Kanta Misra Soumya Mukhopadhyay Gopal Mandal Kankan Sarkar
Situated in the eastern coastal state of West Bengal, the Sundarbans Estuarine System (SES) is India’s largest monsoonal, macro-tidal delta-front estuarine system. It comprises the southernmost part of the Indian portion of the Ganga–Brahmaputra delta bordering the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans Estuarine Programme (SEP), conducted during 18–21 March 2011 (the Equinoctial Spring Phase), was the first comprehensive observational programme undertaken for the systematic monitoring of the tides within the SES. The 30 observation stations, spread over more than 3600 km2, covered the seven inner estuaries of the SES (the Saptamukhi, Thakuran, Matla, Bidya, Gomdi, Harinbhanga, and Raimangal) and represented a wide range of estuarine and environmental conditions. At all stations, tidal water levels (every 15 minutes), salinity, water and air temperatures (hourly) were measured over the six tidal cycles. We report the observed spatio-temporal variations of the tidal water level. The predominantly semi-diurnal tides were observed to amplify northwards along each estuary, with the highest amplification observed at Canning, situated about 98 km north of the seaface on the Matla. The first definite sign of decay of the tide was observed only at Sahebkhali on the Raimangal, 108 km north of the seaface. The degree and rates of amplification of the tide over the various estuarine stretches were not uniform and followed a complex pattern. A least-squares harmonic analysis of the data performed with eight constituent bands showed that the amplitude of the semi-diurnal band was an order of magnitude higher than that of the other bands and it doubled from mouth to head. The diurnal band showed no such amplification, but the amplitude of the 6-hourly and 4-hourly bands increased headward by a factor of over 4. Tide curves for several stations displayed a tendency for the formation of double peaks at both high water (HW) and low water (LW). One reason for these double-peaks was the HW/LW stands of the tide observed at these stations. During a stand, the water level changes imperceptibly around high tide and low tide. The existence of a stand at most locations is a key new finding of the SEP. We present an objective criterion for identifying if a stand occurs at a station and show that the water level changed imperceptibly over durations ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours during the tidal stands in the SES. The tidal duration asymmetry observed at all stations was modified by the stand. Flow-dominant asymmetry was observed at most locations, with ebb-dominant asymmetry being observed at a few locations over some tidal cycles. The tidal asymmetry and stand have implications for human activity in the Sundarbans. The longer persistence of the high water level around high tide implies that a storm surge is more likely to coincide with the high tide, leading to a greater chance of destruction. Since the stands are associated with an amplification of the 4-hourly and 6-hourly constituents, storm surges that have a similar period are also likely to amplify more during their passage through the SES.
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