Mekong River Delta, Vietnam






We collaborated with other universities and institutions based in the United States, Vietnam, New Zealand, and the Netherlands to study past, present, and future dynamics of the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. The largest distributary channel is called the Song Hau and is our main study site. Vietnam is one of many countries whose economy relies heavily on the health of its deltaic agricultural communities which are threatened by the delta’s extremely low elevation, lack of coastal barrier protection, and sea-level rise trends that exceed global averages. Our main goal is to determine the present sediment and flow dynamics of the lower tidal river and river mouth to inner shelf, as well as along the mangrove fringe. The data that our group collects will also be used to develop a model of the Song Hau that will be able to predict future changes in sediment dynamics and hydrodynamics of the system. Preliminary studies took place in 2012 and 2013. Major collaborative field efforts were conducted in September 2014 during the high river discharge season and March 2015 during the low river discharge season / windy monsoon.

In September 2015, we participated in a highly productive data exchange and modeling workshop in Saigon with all of the collaborators on the project. At the 2016 Ocean Sciences meeting in New Orleans, we participated in a special session about the Mekong: Sediment Dynamics of a Tropical River-Marine Dispersal System: the Mekong from River Source to Ocean Sink. Following the session, a diverse group of Mekong scientists from around the world met to plan an upcoming special issue about the Mekong system, with papers covering sediment dynamics ranging from upstream fluvial inputs to tidal river dynamics to mangrove evolution and offshore deposition.

The Mekong modeling workshop group at Vietnam National University, Sept 16-20, 2015. Thanks to the dedicated instructors, students learned the fundamentals of Delft 3D and ICM, and had the opportunity to interact with example models of the Mekong.

Above is a photo of the Mekong Modeling Workshop group (Sept 16-20, 2015) – thanks to the dedicated instructors, students learned the fundamentals of Delft 3D and ICM models, and had the opportunity to interact with example models of the Mekong system. We enjoyed spending the week learning together with our Vietnamese and international colleagues, and discussing Mekong science!

Funding source: Office of Naval Research

People: Andrea Ogston, Chuck Nittrouer, Dan Nowacki, Dan Culling, Aaron Fricke, Emily Eidam, Robin McLachlan

Collaborators: VNU, IMGG, U. Waikato, Tulane, BU, WSU


Project Publications:

Nowacki, D.J., Ogston, A.S., Nittrouer, C.A., Fricke, A.T., Van, P.D.T., 2015. Sediment dynamics in the lower Mekong River: Transition from tidal river to estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 120(9), 6363-6383.

Oceanography: Sedimentary Processes Building a Tropical Delta Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: The Mekong System 

Continental Shelf Research: Sediment- and hydro-dynamics of the Mekong Delta: from tidal river to continental shelf