Variability of in situ Sediment Strength and Pore Pressure Behavior of Tidal Estuary Surface Sediments

TitleVariability of in situ Sediment Strength and Pore Pressure Behavior of Tidal Estuary Surface Sediments
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsLucking, G, Stark, N, Lippmann, T, Smyth, S
JournalGeo-Marine Letters
Volume37, 5
Date PublishedOctober
Keywordsfree falling penetrometer, pore pressure, sediment strength, surface sediments, tidal estuary

Tidal estuaries feature spatially and temporally varying sediment dynamics and characteristics. Particularly, the variability of geotechnical sediment parameters is still poorly understood, limiting the prediction of long-term sediment stability and dynamics. This paper presents results from an in situ investigation of surficial sediments (≤50 cm) in a tidal estuary in New Hampshire (USA), using a portable free fall penetrometer. The aim is to investigate variations in sediment strength and pore pressure behavior with regard to sediment type and seabed morphology. The study also provides a detailed analysis of high velocity impact pore pressure data to derive information about sediment type and permeability. The penetrometer was deployed 227 times, and the findings are correlated to 78 sediment samples. Differences in sediment strength and type were found when transitioning from tidal flats to the deeper channels. Finer-grained sediments located predominantly on the tidal flats appeared well consolidated with noticeable and spatially consistent sediment strength (reflected in an estimate of quasi-static bearing capacity qsbcmax ~10 kPa). Sediments with higher sand content (>75%) showed more variations in strength relating to differences in gradation, and likely represent loose and poorly consolidated sands (qsbcmax ~10–55 kPa). The rate at which the recorded excess pore pressures approached equilibrium after penetration was classified and related to sediment type. The data indicate that the development of excess pore pressures upon impact and during penetration may provide additional insight into the nature and layering of bed material, such as identifying a desiccated or over-consolidated dilative surficial layer. In summary, with varying sediment grain size distributions, bulk densities and morphology, sediment strength and pore pressure behavior can vary significantly within a tidal estuary.

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Refereed DesignationRefereed