The formation mechanisms of turbidity maximum in the Pearl River estuary, China

Wing Hong Onyx Wai, C. H. Wang, Yok Sheung Li, Xiangdong Li

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


The formation and dynamics of turbidity maxima (TM) in the Pearl River estuary (PRE) are not well understood but the existence of TM in the estuary have great potential engineering and environmental impacts. Based on the measurements of two large-scale field surveys conducted in the wet season of 1978 (July of 1978) and the dry season of 1979 (March of 1979), the existence and seasonal variations of TM in the PRE focusing on the two major natural navigation channels have been studied. The sediment transport fluxes over two consecutive tidal cycles have been analyzed in detail. The analysis results reveal that the formation mechanisms of TM in the estuary are rather complex. In general, gravitational circulation, tidal trapping, and sediment resuspension and deposition processes are the primary TM formation mechanisms in the PRE. The clockwise back flow pattern around Lingding Island also leads to the formation of TM in the West channel of the PRE. The occurrence of TM far upstream of the salt water wedge is the result of the complex hydrodynamic and sediment transport processes generated by the runoff of the major rivers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-448
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Pearl River estuary
  • Salt water wedge
  • Sediment deposition
  • Sediment flux
  • Sediment resuspension
  • Turbidity maximum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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