A nonlinear model of flow in meandering submarine and subaerial channels

Jasim Imran, Gary Parker, Carlos Pirmez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A generalized model of flow in meandering subaqueous and subaerial channels is developed. The conservation equations of mass and momentum are depth/layer integrated, normalized, and represented as deviations from a straight base state. This allows the determination of integrable forms which can be solved at both linear and nonlinear levels. The effects of various flow and geometric parameters on the flow dynamics are studied. Although the model is not limited to any specific planform, this study focuses on sine-generated curves. In analysing the flow patterns, the turbidity current of the subaqueous case is simplified to a conservative density flow with water entrainment from above neglected. The subaqueous model thus formally corresponds to a subcritical or only mildly supercritical mud-rich turbidity current. By extension, however the analysis can be applied to a depositional or erosional current carrying sand that is changing only slowly in the streamwise direction. By bringing the subaqueous and subaerial cases into a common form, flow behaviour in the two environments can be compared under similar geometric and boundary conditions. A major difference between the two cases is the degree of superelevation of channel flow around bends, which is modest in the subaerial case but substantial in the subaqueous case. Another difference concerns Coriolis effects: some of the largest subaqueous meandering systems are so large that Coriolis effects can become important. The model is applied to meander bends on the youngest channel in the mid-fan region of the Amazon Fan and a mildly sinuous bend of the North-West Atlantic Mid-Ocean Channel. In the absence of specific data on the turbid flows that created the channel, the model can be used to make inferences about the flow, and in particular the range of values of flow velocity and sediment concentration that would allow the growth and downfan migration of meander bends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-331
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Dec 10 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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