Laboratory-scale dam-break study of gravity currents with basal entrainment: PIV measurements of a viscous newtonian fluid over a horizontal bed of the same ﬂuid.
Geophysical gravity flows such as avalanches and debris flows belong to a special class of hazardous environmental event, in which a mixture of solids and fluids (e.g. debris and mud, snow and air) flow as a liquid and may run out much further than expected over a slope less steep than the critical angle of repose. Exchange of material between the overriding flow and a loose bed layer underneath is known to affect the characteristics of such a flow however it is not well understood how this plays a part, nor the mechanism of such an exchange, due to the difficulties of seeing inside a flowing mass in the field and experiments. Research has been carried out on an entraining viscous gravity current in an laboratory flume using Particle Image Velocimetry. The aim was to investigate the flow properties in a vertical slice of fluid in the downstream direction, far from the side-walls, when a flowing layer overrides a basal layer of the same material. The parameter varied here is the volume of fluid released from the reservoir, which affects the height and velocity of the encroaching fluid current. An interface was identified between the overriding fluid and the initially stationary bed fluid. PIV was used to show the evolution of the velocity and shear fields throughout the system compared to the location of this interface and how this changes with the volume of fluid released. The overriding fluid displaces the bed fluid, either by plunging or spilling into the erodible layer depending on the initial volume, thus inciting the stationary material downstream and below to move. Initially, a large amount of bed material is suddenly mobilized by the front of overriding fluid and little deposition occurs. Shortly after this we see the clear development of a depositional region (with low velocities, predominantly in the downwards direction) and an eroding region (with high, almost uniformly horizontal velocities) within the front of material that enters the bed, separated by a region of high shear. For larger released volumes, multiple shear bands develop, thus showing distinct regions with different rates of material deposition.