Three-dimensional structure of flow at a confluence of river channels with discordant beds

Bernard De Serres, André G. Roy, Pascale M. Biron, James L. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents three-dimensional data of the mean and turbulent structure of flow collected at a natural confluence of rivers with discordant beds to (1) describe the three-dimensional flow field of a natural junction of channels; (2) assess the role of changes in bed morphology occurring during transport-effective events on the structure of flow at a confluence; and (3) examine how the three-dimensional structure of flow varies with changes in the ratio of momentum flux between the two confluent streams. Three-dimensional measurements of velocity were reconstructed from the measurements obtained with an array of four, two-component electromagnetic current meters. Six detailed velocity profiles were taken at five cross-sections in a wide range of flow conditions. The mean field of flow is characterised by (1) the acceleration of flow in the downstream portion of the post-confluence channel, but by lower velocities upstream in the mixing layer area; (2) a stagnation zone at the apex of the junction; (3) a zone of flow deviation, and strong fluid upwelling, close to the avalanche face and at the margin of the tributary mouth bar; and (4) reduced velocities over the depositional bar at the downstream junction corner. The position and extent of these zones vary with changes in the ratio of momentum flux. Very high intensity of turbulence (peaks up to 50%) and turbulent kinetic energy were observed in the mixing layer region. Distortion of the mixing layer, characteristic of flow where bed discordance is present between the two tributary channels, was evident from mean and turbulent flow data. This field study suggests that the effects of bed discordance on flow, sediment transport, and the resultant bed morphology must be incorporated into conceptual and numeric models of these sites of complex flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-335
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Bed discordance
  • Confluences
  • Mixing layer
  • Turbulence
  • Turbulent kinetic energy
  • Velocity vectors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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