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Intrusive gravity currents from finite-length locks in a uniformly stratified fluid

  • J. R. MUNROE (a1), C. VOEGELI (a2), B. R. SUTHERLAND (a3), V. BIRMAN (a4) and E. H. MEIBURG (a4)...


Gravity currents intruding into a uniformly stratified ambient are examined in a series of finite-volume full-depth lock-release laboratory experiments and in numerical simulations. Previous studies have focused on gravity currents which are denser than fluid at the bottom of the ambient or on symmetric cases in which the intrusion is the average of the ambient density. Here, we vary the density of the intrusion between these two extremes. After an initial adjustment, the intrusions and the internal waves they generate travel at a constant speed. For small departures from symmetry, the intrusion speed depends weakly upon density relative to the ambient fluid density. However, the internal wave speed approximately doubles as the waves change from having a mode-2 structure when generated by symmetric intrusions to having a mode-1 structure when generated by intrusions propagating near the bottom. In the latter circumstance, the interactions between the intrusion and internal waves reflected from the lock-end of the tank are sufficiently strong and so the intrusion stops propagating before reaching the end of the tank. These observations are corroborated by the analysis of two-dimensional numerical simulations of the experimental conditions. These reveal a significant transfer of available potential energy to the ambient in asymmetric circumstances.


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