The breaching of temporary open/closed estuaries.
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Intermittent breaching of sand barriers at temporary open estuaries plays a key role in the functioning of these systems. Breaching events lead to large and rapid changes in the physico-chemical environment which in turn triggers major biological responses. The breaching process can cause significant morphological changes as strong breach outflows can scour large quantities of accumulated sediments from an estuary. Simple laboratory experiments are reported that investigate the temporal evolution of the breach and the scaling of the breach characteristics namely the breach width W, volume Vb, formation time Tf and peak outflow Qp. The experiments were specifically designed to investigate the influence of the outflow volume S, the hydraulic head H and the barrier breadth B on the breach characteristics. The breach width W was found to be proportional to S1/3, whilst the breach volume Vb was found to be proportional to HBS1/ 3. The breach formation time Tf was found to be proportional to (g/S1/3)-1/2 (H/S1/3)-3/2 (B/S1/3)1 and the peak outflow Qp was found to be proportional to (gS5/3)1/2 (H/S1/3)3/2 (B/S1/3)-1. These scalings are also shown to be consistent with observed breach characteristics for actual estuaries and earth dam failures where outflow volumes are typically six orders of magnitude larger than for the models.