Journal article

Circulation in stratified lakes due to flood-induced turbidity currents

The river inflow in a natural lake with important suspended sediment load during floods, can impact water quality by mobilizing dissolved matters like phosphorous from deep to surface waters. Generally due to thermal stratification in prealpine lakes, the water column is stable. It does not mix vertically unless acted on by outside forces, for example, currents or winds. Since Lake Lugano has a strong thermal stratification, river inflow exhibits different modes of density currents, from surface flows and thermocline intrusion to bottom currents. Turbidity currents are the direct cause of the downward water flow, and at the same time at the origin of upward directed flow. In this study, the impact of river born turbidity currents in Lake Lugano under varying ambient conditions was investigated using field measurements at the inflow river and inside the lake, together with a full three-dimensional numerical model of the entire lake. The paper characterizes the induced circulation of the turbidity plume and gives some indications on the relevance of turbidity currents on the lake.


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