Spatial–temporal structure of mixing interface turbulence at two large river confluences

Kory M. Konsoer, Bruce L. Rhoads

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Converging flows at stream confluences often produce highly turbulent conditions. The shear layer/mixing interface that develops within the confluence hydrodynamic zone (CHZ) is characterized by complex patterns of three-dimensional flow that vary both spatially and temporally. Previous research has examined in detail characteristics of mean flow and turbulence along mixing interfaces at small stream confluences and laboratory junctions; however few, if any, studies have examined these characteristics within mixing interfaces at large river confluences. This study investigates the structure of mean velocity profiles as well as spatial and temporal variations in velocity, backscatter intensity, and temperature within the mixing interfaces of two large river confluences. Velocity, temperature, and backscatter intensity data were obtained at stationary locations within the mixing interfaces and at several cross sections within the CHZ using acoustic Doppler current profilers. Results show that mean flow within the mixing interfaces accelerates over distance from the junction apex. Turbulent kinetic energy initially increases rapidly over distance, but the rate of increase diminishes downstream. Hilbert–Huang transform analysis of time series data at the stationary locations shows that multiple dominant modes of fluctuations exist within the original signals of velocity, backscatter intensity, and temperature. Frequencies of the largest dominant modes correspond well with predicted frequencies for shallow wake flows, suggesting that mixing-interface dynamics include wake vortex shedding—a finding consistent with spatial patterns of depth-averaged velocities at measured cross sections. Spatial patterns of temperature and backscatter intensity show that the converging flows at both confluences do not mix substantially, indicating that turbulent structures within the mixing interfaces are relatively ineffective at producing mixing of the flows in the CHZ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1043-1070
Number of pages28
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Mixing interface
  • River confluence
  • Thermal mixing
  • Wake flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial–temporal structure of mixing interface turbulence at two large river confluences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this