Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Engineering and Applied Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

McCorquodale, Alex

Second Advisor

Georgiou, Ioannis

Third Advisor

Meselhe, Ehab

Fourth Advisor

Hajra, Malay

Fifth Advisor

Guillot, Martin


The stratified flow of the lower Mississippi River due to density gradients is a well documented phenomenon. This stratification of fresh and saline water manifests itself as a heavier wedge of saline water that extends upriver and a buoyant fresh water plume extending into the Gulf of Mexico past the Southwest Pass jetties. The maximum absolute distance of saltwater intrusion observed anywhere in the world occurred on the Mississippi River in 1939 and 1940 when saltwater was observed approximately 225 km upstream from the mouth of Southwest Pass. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers now prevents the wedge from migrating upstream by constructing a subaqueous barrier in the river channel. A curvilinear grid was constructed representative of the modern Mississippi River delta. Boundary conditions were developed for the drought year of 2012 and the grid was tested in order to evaluate the salinity intrusion and sediment transport abilities of the Cartesian Z-coordinate Delft3D code. The Z-model proved to have the ability to propagate the saline density current as observed in the prototype. The effect of salinity on fine sediment transport is evaluated by manipulation of the settling velocity through a cosine function provided in the model code. Manipulation of the fine sediment fall velocity through the cosine function was an effective means to simulate the re-circulation of flocculated sediments in the saline wedge turbidity maxima. In addition, the Z-model capably reproduced the fine sediment concentration profiles in a fully turbulent shear flow environment. With the ability to reproduce the seasonal saline density current and its effect on sedimentation within the turbidity maxima as well as sedimentation characteristics in a fully turbulent shear flow, a model capable of analyzing all of the major processes affecting fine sediment transport within the Mississippi River salt wedge estuary has been developed.


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