Heterogeneity Affects Intertidal Flow Topology in Coastal Beach Aquifers

Xiaolong Geng, Holly A. Michael, Michel C. Boufadel, Fred J. Molz, Firas Gerges, Kenneth Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Intertidal aquifers are hotspots of biogeochemical cycling where nutrients and contaminants are processed prior to discharge to the ocean. The nature of the dynamic subsurface mixing zone is a critical control on mitigating reactions. Simulation of density-dependent, variably saturated flow and salt transport incorporating realistic representations of aquifer heterogeneity was conducted within a Monte Carlo framework to investigate influence of nonuniform permeability on intertidal groundwater flow and salt transport dynamics. Results show that heterogeneity coupled with tides creates transient preferential flow paths within the intertidal zone, evolving multiple circulation cells and fingering-type salinity distributions. Due to heterogeneity, strain-dominated (intense mixing) and vorticity-dominated (low mixing) flow regions coexist at small spatial scales, and their spatial extent reaches peaks at high tide and low tide. Such topological characteristics reveal complex tempo-spatial mixing patterns for intertidal flow with localized areas of high and low mixing intensities, which have implications for intertidal biogeochemical processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GL089612
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 16 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • density-dependent, variably saturated groundwater flow
  • dilution index and local mixing
  • heterogeneity
  • salt dynamics
  • tidally influenced beach aquifer


Dive into the research topics of 'Heterogeneity Affects Intertidal Flow Topology in Coastal Beach Aquifers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this