Large eddy simulation of interacting barchan dunes in a steady, unidirectional flow

Mohammad Omidyeganeh, Ugo Piomelli, Kenneth T. Christensen, James L. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Barchan dunes are bed forms found in many sedimentary environments with a limited supply of sediment, and may occur in isolation or in more complex dune fields. Barchans have a crescentic planform morphology with horns elongated in the downflow direction. To study flow over barchan dunes, we performed large eddy simulations in a channel with different interdune spacings at a flow Reynolds number, Re≃26,000 (based on the free stream velocity and channel height). The largest interdune spacing (2.38λ, where λ is the wavelength of the barchan dune) presents similar characteristics to a solitary dune in isolation, indicating that, at this distance, the sheltering effect of the upstream dune is rather weak. Barchan dunes induce two counterrotating streamwise vortices, one along each of the horns, which direct high-momentum fluid toward the symmetry plane and low-momentum fluid near the bed away from the centerline. The flow close to the centerline plane separates at the crest, but away from the centerline plane, and along the horns, flow separation occurs intermittently. The flow in the separation bubble is directed toward the horns and leaves the dune at its tips. The internal boundary layer developing on the bed downstream of the reattachment region develops similarly for various interdune spacings; the development slows down 14.5 dune heights downstream. The turbulent kinetic energy budgets show the importance of pressure transport and mean flow advection in transferring energy from the overlying wake layer to the internal boundary layer over the stoss side. For closely spaced dunes, the bed shear stress is 30% larger than at the largest spacing, and instantaneous coherent high- and low-speed streaks are shorter but stronger. Coherent eddies in the separated shear layer are generated more frequently for smaller interdune spacing, where they move farther away from the bed, toward the free surface, and remain located between the horns. Key Points Barchan dunes induce two counterrotating streamwise vortices, along the horns The interdune spacing affects significantly the flow over the downstream dunes Features of the separated-shear layer are altered with interdune spacing

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2089-2104
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • barchan dunes
  • geophysical and geological flows
  • large eddy simulation
  • turbulence simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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