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A study of three-dimensional gravity currents on a uniform slope

  • ANDREW N. ROSS (a1) (a2), P. F. LINDEN (a1) (a3) and STUART B. DALZIEL (a1)

Abstract

In many geophysical, environmental and industrial situations, a finite volume of fluid with a density different to the ambient is released on a sloping boundary. This leads to the formation of a gravity current travelling up, down and across the slope. We present novel laboratory experiments in which the dense fluid spreads both down-slope (and initially up-slope) and laterally across the slope. The position, shape and dilution of the current are determined through video and conductivity measurements for moderate slopes (5° to 20°). The entrainment coefficient for different slopes is calculated from the experimental results and is found to depend very little on the slope. The value agrees well with previously published values for entrainment into gravity currents on a horizontal surface. The experimental measurements are compared with previous shallow-water models and with a new wedge integral model developed and presented here. It is concluded that these simplified models do not capture all the significant features of the flow. In the models, the current takes the form of a wedge which travels down the slope, but the experiments show the formation of a more complicated current. It is found that the wedge integral model over-predicts the length and width of the gravity current but gives fair agreement with the measured densities in the head. The initial stages of the flow, during which time the wedge shape develops, are studied. It is found that although the influence of the slope is seen relatively quickly for moderate slopes, the time taken for the wedge to develop is much longer. The implications of these findings for safety analysis are briefly discussed.

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