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Superelevation and overspill control secondary flow dynamics in submarine channels

Dorrell, R. M.; Darby, S. E.; Peakall, J.; Sumner, E. J.; Parsons, D. R.; Wynn, R. B.


S. E. Darby

J. Peakall

E. J. Sumner

D. R. Parsons

R. B. Wynn


In subaerial and submarine meander bends, fluid flow travels downstream in a helical spiral, the structure of which is determined by centrifugal, hydrostatic, baroclinic, and Coriolis forces that together balance frictional stresses generated by the flow. The sense of rotation of this helical flow, and in particular, whether the near bed flow is directed toward the inner bank, e.g., "river-normal," or outer bank, e.g., "river-reversed," is crucial to the morphodynamic evolution of the channel. However, in recent years, there has been a debate over the river-normal or river-reversed nature of submarine flows. Herein, we develop a novel three-dimensional closure of secondary flow dynamics, incorporating downstream convective material transport, to cast new light on this debate. Specifically, we show that the presence of net radial material transport, arising from flow superelevation and overspill, exerts a key control on the near bed orientation of secondary flow in submarine meanders. Our analysis implies that river-reversed flows are likely to be much more prevalent throughout submarine-canyon fan systems than prior studies have indicated.


Dorrell, R. M., Darby, S. E., Peakall, J., Sumner, E. J., Parsons, D. R., & Wynn, R. B. (2013). Superelevation and overspill control secondary flow dynamics in submarine channels. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 118(8), 3895-3915.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 17, 2013
Online Publication Date Aug 13, 2013
Publication Date Aug 13, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Print ISSN 2169-9291
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 118
Issue 8
Pages 3895-3915
Keywords Density current; Meander; Secondary flow
Public URL
Publisher URL


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Copyright Statement
This article is published under a CC-BY licence.

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