Analog laboratory experiments were conducted to investigate subaqueous bed forms generated under storm-like oscillatory and combined flow. Experiments were carried out in a large wave tunnel and used a range of sand sizes (fine and very fine), wave periods (10.5 and 8 s), oscillatory velocities (0 to 125 cm/s), and unidirectional velocities (0 to 25 cm/s).
At low unidirectional velocities (≤10 cm/s), addition of an increasing collinear oscillatory flow caused the bed to evolve from small-scale (wavelength < 20 cm), symmetric, anorbital ripples, to large-scale (wavelength > 100 cm), symmetric, orbital ripples, to plane bed. At higher unidirectional velocities (>10 cm/s), a similar trend was noted, but ripples were more asymmetric. Three phase diagrams are presented to summarize the observed relationships of bed configurations to flow conditions. These diagrams are intended to assist in the interpretation of shallow marine sedimentary environments where oscillatory and combined flow are thought to be omnipresent.
Distinctive features of small-scale asymmetric combined-flow ripples generated are: a 3D planform, round crest, and convex-up sigmoidal profile with local pronounced scour at the toe of the stoss side giving the ripple profile a "boxy" appearance. Similarly, large-scale asymmetric combined-flow ripples had broad and round crests, convex-up stoss sides, and "compressed profiles" due to scouring at the toe of the stoss side.
Hummocky bed forms were generated under moderate to high oscillatory velocities and low unidirectional velocities. Hummocks were not observed as a distinct bed state but rather appeared to mark transitions in bed-form scale and symmetry. Hummocks were more prevalent at longer oscillatory periods and in finer-grained sediment. Stratification produced by "synthetically" aggrading hummocky bed profiles closely resembles hummocky cross-stratification. With the introduction of only a small unidirectional-flow component, hummocks evolve into downstream-migrating large-scale asymmetric ripples, and the resultant cross-stratification becomes similar to that produced by unidirectional-flow dunes. Accordingly, these experiments suggest that much of the hummocky cross-stratification observed in the stratigraphic record is produced by storm-generated long-period oscillatory-dominant combined flows. Inasmuch as long-period, high-energy waves require deep, wide basins to form, hummocky cross-stratification may therefore serve as a useful indicator of deposition in unrestricted, open-water conditions.