Journal article

Contained density currents with high volume of release

Contained density currents with high volume of release reflect against the boundaries of the reception environment commonly leading to oscillatory flow. These flows exist in sediment clarifiers, compromising their operations, and deposited signatures of contained turbidity currents are found as part of the infill of sedimentary basins; for operation of the former and interpretation of the latter it is essential to understand the dynamic processes of these flows. Six lock-exchange experiments with different initial densities were made in a horizontal flume, where the volume of the saline mixture in the lock was equivalent to the volume of the ambient fluid. A further two tests, with a repeated initial density, were made: one with high volume of release and very long duration; and another with low volume of release. Firstly, the movement of the current is discussed, including the oscillations within the experimental tank involving the density current and an upper layer counter-current. It is shown that the cyclic behaviour is self-similar with the reduced gravity of the initial density in the lock. Secondly, entrainment and water mixing processes are characterized. The time evolution of mixing is characterized qualitatively by analysing the background potential energy of the density distributions to show that mixing occurs even in the earlier stages of the current, and mainly within the first cycle of the oscillation. Quantified analysis reveals that, in currents with high volume of release, entrainment discharge is one order of magnitude higher, mainly due to the larger interface between the ambient fluid and the current. A model for the evolution of the mixing process is proposed for density currents with high volume of release. Finally, the dynamics of the head of the current is analysed. The entrainment in the head, when compared to the entrainment in the remainder body of the flows, is less important for the configuration with a larger lock.


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