Sea level variability in South African estuaries


  • Eckart H. Schumann Department of Geosciences, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa



South Africa, estuary, water level, subtidal fluctuations


Sea level variability in the coastal ocean affects water levels in adjacent estuaries over a wide range of periods and to varying distances landward. An assessment is given here of the responses of a number of South African estuaries, focusing on tidal and subtidal periods where the dominant effects are found and the necessary data are available. Shorter period inputs tend to be limited to mouth regions and require more detailed, higher frequency data. Subtidal fluctuations, in particular those caused by coastal trapped waves, play an important part in the dynamics of estuaries in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. In many cases their influence dominates tidal oscillations farther upstream, and it is apparent that such fluctuations must be considered in any assessment of estuarine characteristics, and indeed their upstream extent. Nonetheless, it should be emphasised that each estuary has unique properties, and must be assessed individually. Sea level variability changes dramatically north of the Kei Estuary, and particularly off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Unfortunately, few measurements were available from these estuaries, but the mouth conditions of the estuaries and the build-up of river flow appear to be important factors in resulting estuary water levels. These results show that using only tidal variations in the sea can result in very misleading conclusions about concurrent water levels in estuaries.



How to Cite

Schumann, E. H. (2013). Sea level variability in South African estuaries. South African Journal of Science, 109(3/4), 7.



Research Article