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On the causes of pulsing in continuous turbidity currents

Kostaschuk, Ray; Nasr-Azadani, Mohamad M.; Meiburg, Eckart; Wei, Taoyuan; Chen, Zhongyuan; Negretti, Maria Eletta; Best, Jim; Peakall, Jeff; Parsons, Daniel R.


Ray Kostaschuk

Mohamad M. Nasr-Azadani

Eckart Meiburg

Taoyuan Wei

Zhongyuan Chen

Maria Eletta Negretti

Jim Best

Jeff Peakall


Velocity pulsing has previously been observed in continuous turbidity currents in lakes and reservoirs, even though the input flow is steady. Several different mechanisms have been ascribed to the generation of these fluctuations, including Rayleigh‐Taylor (RT) instabilities that are related to surface lobes along the plunge line where the river enters the receiving water body and interfacial waves such as Kelvin‐Helmholtz instabilities. However, the understanding of velocity pulsing in turbidity currents remains limited. Herein we undertake a stability analysis for inclined flows and compare it against laboratory experiments, direct numerical simulations, and field data from Lillooet Lake, Canada, and Xiaolangdi Reservoir, China, thus enabling an improved understanding of the formative mechanisms for velocity pulsing. Both RT and Kelvin‐Helmholtz instabilities are shown to be prevalent in turbidity currents depending on initial conditions and topography, with plunge line lobes and higher bulk Richardson numbers favoring RT instabilities. Other interfacial wave instabilities (Holmboe and Taylor‐Caulfield) may also be present. While this is the most detailed analysis of velocity pulsing conducted to date, the differences in spatial scales between field, direct numerical simulations, and experiments and the potential complexity of multiple processes acting in field examples indicate that further work is required. In particular, there is a need for simultaneous field measurements at multiple locations within a given system to quantify the spatiotemporal evolution of such pulsing.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 13, 2018
Journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Print ISSN 2169-9003
Electronic ISSN 2169-9011
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 123
Issue 11
Pages 2827-2843
APA6 Citation Kostaschuk, R., Nasr-Azadani, M. M., Meiburg, E., Wei, T., Chen, Z., Negretti, M. E., …Parsons, D. R. (2018). On the causes of pulsing in continuous turbidity currents. Journal of geophysical research. JGR. Earth surface, 123(11), 2827-2843.
Keywords Velocity pulsing in continuous turbidity currents; Numerical; Laboratory and field experiments; Rayleigh-Taylor and Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities
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©2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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