Mean flow and turbulence structure over fixed, two‐dimensional dunes: implications for sediment transport and bedform stability


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Detailed measurements of flow velocity and its turbulent fluctuation were obtained over fixed, two‐dimensional dunes in a laboratory channel. Laser Doppler anemometry was used to measure the downstream and vertical components of velocity at more than 1800 points over one dune wavelength. The density of the sampling grid allowed construction of a unique set of contour maps for all mean flow and turbulence parameters, which are assessed using higher moment measures and quadrant analysis. These flow field maps illustrate that: (1) the time‐averaged downstream and vertical velocities agree well with previous studies of quasi‐equilibrium flow over fixed and mobile bedforms and show a remarkable symmetry from crest to crest; (2) the maximum root‐mean‐square (RMS) of the downstream velocity values occur at and just downstream of flow reattachment and within the flow separation cell; (3) the maximum vertical RMS values occur within and above the zone of flow separation along the shear layer and this zone advects and diffuses downstream, extending almost to the next crest; (4) positive downstream skewness values occur within the separation cell, whereas positive vertical skewness values are restricted to the shear layer; (5) the highest Reynolds stresses are located within the zone of flow separation and along the shear layer; (6) high‐magnitude, high‐frequency quadrant‐2 events (‘ejections’) are concentrated along the shear layer (Kelvin‐Helmholtz instabilities) and dominate the contribution to the local Reynolds stress; and (7) high‐magnitude, high‐frequency quadrant‐4 events occur bounding the separation zone, near reattachment and close to the dune crest, and are significant contributors to the local Reynolds stress at each location. These data demonstrate that the turbulence structure associated with dunes is controlled intrinsically by the formation, magnitude and downstream extent of the flow separation zone and resultant shear layer. Furthermore, the origin of dune‐related macroturbulence lies in the dynamics of the shear layer rather than classical turbulent boundary layer bursting. The fluid dynamic distinction between dunes and ripples is reasoned to be linked to the velocity differential across the shear layer and hence the magnitude of the Kelvin‐Helmholtz instabilities, which are both greater for dunes than ripples. These instabilities control the local flow and turbulence structure and dictate the modes of sediment entrainment and their transport rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-513
Number of pages23
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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