A new approach for scaling beach profile evolution and sediment transport rates in distorted laboratory models

Paul Maxime Bayle, Tomas Beuzen, Christopher Edwin Blenkinsopp, Tom E. Baldock, Ian Lloyd Turner

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Laboratory wave flume experiments in coastal engineering and physical oceanography are widely used to provide an improved understanding of morphodynamic processes. Wave flume facilities around the world vary greatly in their physical dimensions and differences in the resulting distortion of the modelled processes are reconciled using scaling laws. However, it is known that perfect model-prototype scaling of all hydro and morphodynamic processes is rarely possible and there is a lack of understanding to what extent distorted models can be used for direct morphological comparison. To address this issue, distorted scale laboratory flume experiments were undertaken in three different facilities, with the aim to measure and compare beach profile evolution under erosive waves and increasing water levels. A novel approach was developed to transform and scale the different experimental geometries into dimensionless coordinates, which enabled a direct quantitative comparison of the beach profile evolution and sediment transport rates between the differing distorted experimental scales. Comparing results from the three experiments revealed that the dimensionless scaled morphological behaviour was similar after the same number of waves – despite very different degrees of model distortion. The distorted profiles appeared to be suitable for comparison as long as a modified version of the Dean number is maintained between them. The new method was then validated with two further published datasets, and showed good agreement for both dimensionless profile shape, dimensionless sediment transport and morphodynamics parameters. The new approach scales the sediment transport by the square of the runup, proportional to HL, rather than H2, and yields good agreement between the datasets. It is further shown that the new scaling method is also applicable for comparing distorted profile evolution under water level increase, as long as the water level is raised in a similar way between the experiments and by the same total increment relative to the significant wave height (Δh/Hs).

Original languageEnglish
Article number103794
JournalCoastal Engineering
Early online date29 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021


  • Distorted profiles
  • Flume
  • Morphodynamics
  • Scale modelling
  • Water level change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering


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