Entrainment, transport and deposition of sediment by saline gravity currents

Few studies have addressed simultaneously the feedback between the hydrodynamics of a gravity cur- rent and the geomorphological changes of a mobile bed. Hydrodynamic quantities such as turbulent and mean velocities, bed shear stress and turbulent stresses undoubtedly govern the processes of en- trainment, transport and deposition. On the other hand, the incorporation of entrained sediment in the current may change its momentum by introducing extra internal stresses, introducing thus a feedback process. These two main questions are here investigated. Laboratory experiments of saline gravity cur- rents, produced by lock-exchange, flowing over a mobile bed channel reach, are here reported. Different initial buoyancies of the current in the lock are tested together with three different grain sizes of the non-coherent sediment that form the erodible bed. Results from velocity measurements are combined with the visualization of the sediment movement in the mobile reach and with post-test topographic and photo surveys of the geomorphology modifications of the channel bed. Mean and turbulent veloc- ities are measured and bed shear stress and Reynolds stresses are estimated. We show that the mean vertical component of the velocity and bed shear stress are highly correlated with the first instants of sediment entrainment. Vertical turbulent velocity is similarly related to entrainment, although with lower correlation values, contributing as well to the sediment movement. Bed shear stress and Reynolds shear stress measured near the bed are correlated with sediment entrainment for longer periods, indicating that these quantities are associated to distal transport as well. Geomorphological changes in the mobile bed are strongly related to the impulse caused by the bed shear stress on the sediment. On the other hand, we show that the nature of the grain of the mobile bed reach influences the hydrodynamics of the current which means that a feedback mechanisms between both occurs during the passage of the unsteady gravity current. The signature of this geomorphological changes, which is visible in the form of longitudinal steaks of accumulated sediment downstream the mobile bed, is related to the flow initial buoyancy and to the size of the mobile bed sediment. It is argued that the bed material and near-bed turbulent coherent motion interact and mutually influence each other. The geometry of the front of the gravity currents changes with the incorporation of the sediment, indicating that with the presence of sediment extra energy losses occur in the front of the current.

Published in:
Advances in Water Resources, 115, 17-32
Mar 01 2018

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 Record created 2018-09-17, last modified 2019-02-13

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