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- 460 - International Journal of Sediment Research, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2011, pp.


International Journal of Sediment Research 26 (2011) 460-470

Variations in texture of beach sediments in the vicinity of
the Tirumalairajanar river mouth of India

, Thirunavukkarasu RAMKUMAR
Irudhayanathan ANITHAMARY
, and Govindaraj RAMESH

The distribution of grain size parameters along 11 km stretch of the beach sediments between Karikal
and Nagore, reveals that the mean grain size exhibits a marked decreasing trend on either side of the
mouth of the Tirumalairajanar River which flow from west to east. The sediments are mainly of medium
to coarse grained, moderately sorted, near-symmetrical skewed to fine skewed and leptokurtic to
mesokurtic in nature. Interrelationship of various parameters shows bimodal nature of sediments having
dominance of medium to coarse sand. The major part of the sediment fall in a coarse to fine grained
category (sand and silt). Based on the CM (Coarser one percentile value in micron) pattern, the sediment
fall in rolling and suspension field. These factors includes the sediments discharged from the river mixes
with offshore sediments and with the sediments eroded from a source rock. The effect of wave sorting,
and the northward drifting of sediments by littoral current are understandable. Results indicate that the
Tirumalairajanar River is the most important source for modern sediments in the study area. The
agitation by waves is an important sorting mechanism in the study area, and the net sediment transport in
the study area is northward. The findings are based on the grain sizes and also corroborated by short-
term observations of the beach sediment dynamics and transport during the monsoon and summer
seasons between Karaikal and Nagore region.

Key Words: Grain size analysis, Beach sediments, Tirumalairajanr, East coast

1 Introduction
Any depositional system is composed of a sediment source and a dispersal zone, which is a combination
of a conduit and sink(s) (Swift et al., 1972). In a particular system, the sediment distribution pattern is
determined by the source material, the transport process and the type of environment (fluvial, deltaic etc.;
Tanner, 1962). In a coastal depositional environment, the interaction among the sediment supply, the
energy dissipation pattern, and the geology of the area produces an unique set of shoreline
geomorphology, offshore bathymetry, and surfiacial texture of the substrate that are characteristics of the
system. The sediment pathways between the source(s) and sink(s) within coastal depositional systems are
complex, since the transport agents are processes relating to the river discharge (or runoff), nearshore
wave field, coastal tides, local wind field, and episodic storms, each having its own spatial and temporal
characteristics. Where a river discharges into the coastal sea, two major categories of coastal depositional
systems can occur. An estuary is formed if the seaward portion of the drowned river valley is being filled

Research scholar, Department of Earth Sciences, Annamalai University, Annamalainagar, 608002. Tamilnadu,
India, E-mail:
Assoc. Prof., and Head. Dr., Department of Earth Sciences, Annamalai University, Annamalainagar, 608002,
Tamilnadu, India, E-mail:
Asst. Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Annamalai University, Annamalainagar, 608002. Tamilnadu, India.
Note: The original manuscript of this paper was received in Aug. 2010. The revised version was received in Sept.
2011. Discussion open until Dec. 2012.
International Journal of Sediment Research, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2011, pp. 460470 - 461 -
with both fluvial and marine sediments (mixed source) (Dalrymple et al., 1992). A river delta is formed
when an estuary is filled, resulting in a prograding shoreline (fluvial source dominates) near the river
mouth. The quantity and pattern of sediment supply and how the available sediments are dispersed in a
coastal depositional system not only determines the configuration and geomorphology of the system, but
also determines the long-term behavior of the system such as accretional or erosional (Wright and
Coleman, 1972; Galloway, 1975; Orton and Reading, 1993; Azharul Hoque et al., 2010; Dinakaran and
Krishnayya, 2011). Worldwide, the major sediment sources for most coastal depositional systems are
riverine. Poppe et al. (2004) pointed out the measures that describe and summarize that the sediment
grain-size distributions are important to geologists because of the large amount of information contained
in textural data sets. Statistical methods are usually employed to simplify the necessary comparisons
among samples and quantify the observed differences. The two statistical methods most commonly used
by sedimentologists to describe particle distributions are mathematical moments (Krumbein and Pettijohn,
1938) and inclusive graphics (Folk, 1957).
In the present investigation, the grain size parameters are used to interpret sediment movement in the
beach segment from Karikal to Nagore with special mention about the processes operating around the
Tirumalairajanarar and Arasalar river mouth.

2 Description of the study area
The study area (Fig. 1) forms part of Karaikal and Nagapattinam district. It falls between the latitude N
0 0 0 0 11

and N 0 0 0 5 10

and longitude E 0 0 0 4 79

and E 0 0 0 5 79

and forms part of survey of India

Toposheet No 58M/13 and 16 on 1:50,000 scale. The Cauvery, Arasalar, Tirmalarajanar, Vellar, Adappar,
Vettar and Vedaranyam canals are the main rivers flowing in this area and debauches in to the Bay of
Bengal. The study area is surrounded by the Tanjore district in the west, Cuddalore district in the north,
Palk straight in the south and Bay of Bengal in the east.

Fig. 1 Location map of the area of study

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3 Material and methods
A total of forty sediment samples were collected from the 20 stations during high and low tide levels of
the beach by using a plastic spatula covering the period of Monsoon 2009 (November) and Summer 2010
(May). Samples were stored frozen before the analysis. Then, they were dried in an oven at 60C for 24
hours to a constant weight (Holme and Macintyre, 1971). Sieving technique is applied to separate the
grains of various size classes (Ingram, 1970). Initially 100 gm of sample is prepared by treating with 10%
dilute hydrochloric acid and 6% hydrogen peroxide respectively. Sieving was carried out in ASTM sieve
at 1/4 intervals for about 20 minute in Digital sieve shaker (Retsch AS 200). This basic data i.e. weight
percentage frequency data is converted into cumulative weight percentage data, served as basic tool for
the generation of other statistical parameters (Tables 1A and B) using GSSTAT, SEDPLOT program
developed by USGS. The input for the sediment fractions (Inclusive graphics, Folk, 1974) is weight
percentages in 1/2 phi notation (Krumbein, 1934; Inman, 1952).

Table 1A Graphic measure from the grain-size analysis of the samples (Monsoon)

4 Results and discussion

4.1 Grain size analysis
The comparative study of the histograms of retained fractions of sieve analysis shows most of sediment
samples ranged from coarse to fine-grain. Similarly, most of the cumulative frequency curves shows same
trend in both seasons. During monsoon seasons, a little improvement in the sorting of grains. This is
because of the dominance of coarse and medium sand size sediments in relatively high wave energy
where wave action could remove finer material by winnowing and transporting it elsewhere (Fig. 2). In
summer seasons, the dominance of medium grained, it is may be due to limited inputs and weak wave
energy condition (Fig. 3).

deviation phi
Sand %
Clay %
MS1 1.62 1.69 0.66 0.15 1.32 96.12 3.02 1.02
MS2 1.68 1.73 0.87 0.16 1.34 95.7 3.3 0.85
MS3 1.64 1.71 0.8 0.2 1.49 95.33 3.67 1.05
MS4 1.68 1.74 0.81 0.16 1.34 95.65 3.3 0.08
MS5 1.39 1.39 0.93 0.15 1.41 95.31 4.69 0.96
MS6 1.44 1.41 0.68 0.04 1.6 95.42 2.47 2.3
MS7 1.36 1.36 0.79 0.05 1.23 95.56 2.2 1.33
MS8 1.59 1.54 1.07 0.05 0.85 95.74 4.26 0.56
MS9 2.3 2.27 0.71 0.06 1.36 95.44 4.56 0.78
MS10 2.24 2.2 0.64 -0.01 1.17 96.62 3.38 0.43
MS11 2.26 2.21 0.67 0 1.24 96.34 2.66 1.76
MS12 1.97 2.01 0.7 0.19 1.22 95.46 2.65 1.86
MS13 2.39 2.36 0.66 0.03 1.6 95.45 4.55 0.88
MS14 2.27 2.18 0.8 -0.08 1.34 95.99 4.01 0.04
MS15 2.41 2.39 0.67 0.04 1.56 95.48 4.52 0.02
MS16 2.24 2.17 0.6 -0.17 1.02 98.73 0.1 1.76
MS17 1.94 1.85 0.97 -0.04 1.2 95.32 2.68 1.33
MS18 1.4 1.36 0.71 0.01 1.44 95.9 2.66 1.8
MS19 1.59 1.64 0.63 0.08 1.29 98.25 1.75 0.03
MS20 1.47 1.46 0.8 0.04 1.15 95.74 4.26 0.76
Minimum 1.36 1.36 0.6 -0.17 0.85 95.31 0.1 0.02
Maximum 2.41 2.39 1.07 0.2 1.6 98.73 4.69 2.3
Average 1.85 1.83 0.77 0.052 1.30 96.072 3.16 0.993
International Journal of Sediment Research, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2011, pp. 460470 - 463 -
Table 1B Graphic measure from the grain-size analysis of the samples (Summer)
Mean phi Standard
deviation phi
Sand % Silt %
SS1 2.09 2.1 0.78 0.14 1.26 95.3 4.02 0.03
SS2 1.43 1.37 0.58 -0.19 1.08 99.32 1.07 0.02
SS3 1.82 1.79 0.81 -0.07 1 96.65 2.67 1.05
SS4 1.84 1.85 0.71 -0.02 1.04 96.17 3.37 0.08
SS5 1.77 1.8 0.9 0.13 1.33 95.37 3.65 1.06
SS6 1.62 1.6 1 0.08 1.07 95.47 2.53 2.34
SS7 1.64 1.69 0.85 0.14 1.31 95.57 2.87 2.33
SS8 1.62 1.6 0.83 -0.03 0.95 96.13 3.36 0.56
SS9 2.26 2.19 0.54 -0.18 1.02 95.3 2.34 1.67
SS10 1.81 1.86 0.61 0.13 1 95.99 3.78 0.03
SS11 1.84 1.86 0.66 0.03 1.02 96.25 3.94 0.76
SS12 2.21 2.13 0.69 -0.11 1.19 95.94 2.65 0.86
SS13 1.83 1.85 0.67 0.01 1.03 96.79 2.34 0.62
SS14 2.3 2.19 0.68 -0.22 1.19 98.74 1.45 0.04
SS15 2.37 2.37 0.71 0.03 1.61 94.91 3.33 1.07
SS16 2.27 2.2 0.64 -0.14 1.11 98.51 0.87 0.03
SS17 1.98 1.85 1.27 0.07 1.7 92.64 6.23 0.44
SS18 1.39 1.39 0.69 0 1.5 96.9 1.66 0.83
SS19 1.59 1.62 0.56 0.04 1.24 98.89 1.89 0.04
SS20 1.48 1.46 0.74 -0.02 1.09 99.35 1.34 0.03
Minimum 1.39 1.39 0.54 -0.22 0.95 92.64 0.87 0.02
Maximum 2.37 2.37 1.27 0.14 1.7 99.35 6.23 2.34
Average 1.86 1.83 0.760 -0.011 1.197 96.46 2.839 0.73

Fig. 2 Cumulative curves showing the trends of all the samples (Monsoon)

4.2 Statistical parameters
Phi mean size (Mz) is a measure of central tendency, which is calculated by the formula (

)/3. During monsoon, the mean size values ranges from 1.36 to 2.39 and during summer ranged
from 1.39 to 2.37 (Fig. 4). In monsoon season, the grain size distribution shows the dominance of
medium sand indicating the influence of input from freshwater and longshore current. Whereas in
summer seasons, most of the sediment samples shows the fine sand grained nature which indicates the
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low fluvial discharge and weak wave energy condition. Inclusive graphic standard deviation is the
measure of sorting or uniformity of particles size distribution and it is calculated by the formula (
/ 4 + (
) / 6.6. This values ranged from 0.6 to 1.07 (monsoon season) and the observed minimum
and maximum values ranged from 1.35 to 2.32 (summer season, Fig. 5). During monsoon, most of
sediment samples indicate the moderately sorted to poor sorted. This is may be due to the mixing of
sediments brought from two environments especially due to relatively higher rainfall during the monsoon
season of the study period. In summer season, most of the samples were moderately sorted. This may be
due to onshore winds which transport fine grained sediment further landward, leaving behind coarser
particles at the berm and forming the dune field along this stretch.

Fig. 3 Cumulative curves showing the trends of all the samples (Summer)

Fig. 4 Comparative histograms of all samples showing mean

The skewness measures the systematic of the distribution or predominance of coarse or fine-sediments.
It is calculated by the formula (
) / 2 (
) + (
) / 2 (

). The
negative value denotes coarse-skewed material, whereas, the positive value represents more material in
the fine-tail i.e. fine skewed. During monsoon and summer (Fig. 6) the skewness value ranged from -0.17
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to +0.2 and -0.22 to 0.14 indicating the near- symmetrical, fine-skewed and some of them coarse
skewed category. During monsoon season the dominance of nearly symmetrical nature of sediments was
observed. This is may be due to the mixing of bimodal sources. During summer seasons, the beach
sediments from Karikal to Nagore have positively skewed nature, it was purely due to fair weather season
and relatively dominant low energy regime. The kurtosis (KG) is the peakedness of the distribution and
measures the ratio between the sorting in the tails and central portion of the curve. If the tails are better
sorted than the central portions, then it is termed as platykurtic, whereas, leptokurtic, if the central portion
is better sorted. If both are equally sorted then mesokurtic condition prevails. During the monsoon and
summer, the values ranged from 0.85 to 1.6 and 0.95 to 1.7 respectively (Fig. 7). In monsoon
season, the majority of the sediment samples are leptokurtic in nature. This indicates that finest sediments
from Karikal to Nagore beach reflect the high input condition of the sediments because of its location
between the Tirumalairajanarar River and Arasalar River. Both rivers have high sediment load and part of
their discharge finds its way to Karikal and Nagore beach through favorable littoral currents. The high
input of sediments to this area favors higher accumulation of fine sediments along this beach. During
summer season, has been noticed the leptokurtic nature resulting from mixing of predominant population
with very minor amounts of coarse and fine gravel material. The highest and lowest kurtosis values were
found to be associated with very poorly sorted sediments.

Fig. 5 Comparative histograms of all samples showing standard deviation

Fig. 6 Comparative histograms of all samples showing skewness

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Fig. 7 Comparative histograms of all samples showing kurtosis

4.3 Inter-relationship of size parameters
The inter-relationship of specific size-parameters is significant to interpret various aspects of
depositional environment, as the textural parameters of the sediment are often environmentally sensitive
(Folk and Ward, 1957; Passega, 1957; Friedman, 1961, 1967; Moiola and Weiser, 1968; Visher, 1969).
During monsoon season, mean vs standard deviation plot of the present samples, shows the nature of the
sediments are dominantly bimodal, of which, the dominant constituent is sand. The silt is subordinate
which makes the admixture moderately-sorted nature. The mean vs skewness shows sinusoidal nature.
This is due to the mixture of two size classes of sediments. In general, the ideal fractions are nearly
symmetrical but the mixing produces either positive or negative skewness depending upon the
proportions of size-classes in the admixture. The present values were mostly falling in the positive-
skewed zone of the graph; however, a few samples are negatively skewed, in the mean-size range. It
clearly indicates the nature of sediments with higher percentage of sand and subordinate silt. The relation
between mean-size and kurtosis is complex and theoretical. The plot denotes the mixing of two or more
size-classes of sediments, which basically affect the sorting in peak and tails i.e. index of kurtosis. It
shows that the sediment-admixture is dominated by coarse-sand to fine-sand including silt. Similarly, the
plot between skewness and standard deviation produce a scattered trend that in the form the skewness is
decreases, standard deviation improves and it may be due to two conditions i.e. either unimodal samples
with good sorting or equal mixture of two modes (Ashok et al., 2009). The plot between standard
deviation and kurtosis, shows most of the samples are mesokurtic and moderately sorted because of the
dominance of medium sand-size sediments. The plot between skewness vs kurtosis depends more or less
on equally scattered and it may be due to the dominance of coarse sand size sediments. So, in this coastal
track, wave regime is characterized by short period waves which gave rise to erosion. Along with high
wave energy regime, influx of sediments due to river discharge resulted in coarse grained, unsorted and
fine skewed nature of beach sediments. Poor sorting, sorting wash, backwash and high turbulence result
in bimodal to polymodal character.
During summer season, the bivariate plotted (Fig. 8) between mean grain size and standard deviation
reveals that the grain size decreases, which improves sorting. The concentration of coarser grain
sediments at either side of the mouth of the Tirumalairajanar and Arasalar rivers shows that they are not
carried away by the coastal processes. Coarser grain size and poor sorting nature indicate high energy
environment. Higher energy is expected to produce at the river mouth due to the interaction of strong
outflow of the river water and incoming wave and tidal currents. The higher energy levels permit
deposition of coarser sediments as well as transportation of a much wider range of finer sediments
(Bryant, 1982). In the plot mean vs skewness, the mean size decreases, sediments become well sorted as
well as more negatively skewed (Fig. 9). It is noticed that moderately well sorted sediments are more
International Journal of Sediment Research, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2011, pp. 460470 - 467 -
negatively skewed, probably of fluvial origin. The phi mean size range size parameter is lower during
monsoon than that of the summer. The relation between mean vs kurtosis indicates that the most of the
samples fall under mesokurtic category (as shown in Fig. 10). The influence of sediment supply and wave
energy on the mean grain size of the beach sediments is further evaluated in the present study. During
monsoon and summer season, the majority of the sediments are medium to fine grain size. It is may be
due to the influence of the fluvial sediment. The plot describing relation between skewness and standard
deviation produces a scattered trend (Fig. 11) which shows the increase in skewness leads to decrease in
standard deviation. This may be due to the variations under the influence of littoral currents. The plot
between standard deviation and kurtosis shows most of the samples are mesokurtic and moderately sorted
because of the dominance of medium sand-size sediments (Fig. 12). The plot between skewness vs
kurtosis (Fig. 13) shows most of the samples are leptokurtic to fine skewed. The change in direction of
sediment movement has resulted in the formation of a bar slightly towards northern side of the
Tirumalairajanar river mouth seen especially during summer.

Fig. 8 Mean vs Standard deviation Fig. 9 Mean vs Skewness

Fig. 10 Mean vs Kurtosis Fig. 11 Skewness vs Standard deviation

4.4 Triangular diagram
Sedimentologic datasets are typically large and compiled into tables or databases, but pure numerical
information can be difficult to understand and interpret. Thus, scientists commonly use graphical
representations to reduce complexities, recognize trends and patterns in the data, and develop hypotheses.
Of the graphical techniques, one of the most common methods used by sedimentologists is to plot the
basic gravel, sand, silt, and clay percentages on equilateral triangular diagrams. This means the presenting
data will be simple and facilitates rapid classification of sediments and comparison of samples (Poppe
and Eliason, 2008). Further, the sediment classification has been attempted by plotting the percentage of
sand, silt and clay in a triangular diagram proposed by Folk and Ward (1957) and Folk (1974). The study
reveals that the beach sediments of Karikal to Nagore fall in the sand category (Fig. 14). During monsoon
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season, the Arasalar River and Tirumalairajanar River retain most of the coarse sediments and some may
have passed to the open ocean and later dispersed by littoral current. The littoral current pattern (Reddy et
al., 1985) also substantiates the possibility of sand accumulation by the above-mentioned mechanism. In
summer season, most of the sediment samples fall in sand category. This is may be due to the limited
inputs and weak wave energy condition. So, the sediments of the Karikal to Nagore coast contain a very
large amount of sand and meager amount of silt and clay.

Fig. 12 Standard deviation vs Kurtosis Fig. 13 Skewness vs Kurtosis

Fig. 14 Triangular diagram showing distribution of study area sediments

4.5 CM plot
Passega (1957) introduced C-M plot to evaluate the hydrodynamic forces working during the deposition
of the sediments. It is a relationship of C i.e. coarser one percentile value in micron and M i.e.
median value in micron on log-probability scale. The present plot is made and interpreted following
Passega (1957, 1964) and Passega and Byramjee (1969). Accordingly, duirng monsoon season, most of
the samples fall in N-O region of sector I, which denotes that rolled sediments with less suspension.
During summer season, most of the samples fall in P-O region of sector I, which indicates rolling and
suspension field (Fig. 15). However, a few sediment falls in the sector II, showing suspension and rolling
mode of sedimentation and this may be due to comparatively more percentage of fine sand grained
International Journal of Sediment Research, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2011, pp. 460470 - 469 -

Fig. 15 C-M plot showing distribution of sediment samples

5 Conclusions
Grain size analysis of forty sediment samples during monsoon and summer seasons shows that the
cumulative curves are dominant which indicates the dominance of coarse to medium grained nature of the
sediments. The graphic mean value indicates the dominance of medium sand particles. The sediments, in
general, moderately sorted are dominantly near-symmetrical to fine-skewed in nature. In majority of the
cases, both peak and tails are equally sorted giving rise to leptokurtic condition. Various bivariate plots
between mean, skewness, kurtosis and standard deviation explains the dynamic process operating in the
region together with the influence of climatic seasons. The bimodal nature of sediment indicates that the
sand-size is the principle mode with subordinate silt respectively on both seasons. In the triangular plot,
the sediments are coarse to fine sand in nature during both monsoon and summer seasons. The sediments
are mostly rolled and deposited by traction currents; however, a few samples showing suspension mode.
It may be due to more input of fine grained material during monsoon and summer seasons. Variations of
grain size characteristics along this beach are believed to have resulted from wave refraction and
longshore currents. This study demonstrates the usefulness of selecting several stations to better
understand beach environment of deposition.

The authors acknowledge the valuable suggestions given by Dr. Wang Zhaoyin Editor in- Chief which
greatly helped in the final presentation of the paper. The authors are grateful to two anonymous referees
for their constructive comments and suggestions which led to significant improvements to the manuscript.

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