Longitudinal flow evolution and turbulence structure of dynamically similar, sustained, saline density and turbidity currents

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Experimental results are presented concerning flow evolution and turbulence structure of sustained saline and turbidity flows generated on 0°, 3°, 6°, and 9° sloping ramps that terminate abruptly onto a horizontal floor. Two-component velocity and current density were measured with an ultrasonic Doppler velocity profiler and siphon sampler on the slope, just beyond the slope break and downstream on the horizontal floor. Three main factors influence longitudinal flow evolution and turbulence structure: sediment transport and sedimentation, slope angle, and the presence of a slope break. These controls interact differently depending on flow type. Sediment transport is accompanied by an inertial fluid reaction that enhances Reynolds stresses in turbidity flows. Thus turbidity flows mix more vigorously than equivalent saline density flows. For saline flows, turbulent kinetic energy is dependent on slope, and rapid deceleration occurs on the horizontal floor. For turbidity flows, normalized turbulent kinetic energy increases downstream, and mean streamwise deceleration is reduced compared with saline flows. The slope break causes mean bed-normal velocity of turbidity flows to become negative and have a gentler gradient compared with other locations. A reduction of peak Reynolds normal stress in the bed-normal direction is accompanied by an increase in turbulent accelerations across the rest of the flow thickness. Thus the presence of particles acts to increase Reynolds normal stresses independently of gradients of mean velocity, and sediment transport increases across the break in slope. The experiments illustrate that saline density currents may not be good dynamic analogues for natural turbidity currents.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
Issue numberC8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006

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