Turbulent Sediment Suspension and Induced Ripple Dynamics Absent Mean Shear

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Blair A Johnson and Edwin Cowen, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States
The uprush and backwash phases in the swash zone, the region of the beach that is alternately covered and uncovered by wave run-up, are fundamentally different events. Backwash is dominated by a growing boundary layer where the turbulence is set by the bed shear stress. In this phase traditional boundary layer turbulence models and Shields-type critical stress pickup functions work well. However, the uprush phase, while often viewed in the context of traditional boundary layer turbulence models, has little in common with the backwash phase. During uprush, the entire water column is turbulent, as it rapidly advects well-stirred highly turbulent flow generated offshore from breaking waves or collapsing bores. Turbulence levels in the uprush are several times higher than turbulent boundary layer theory would predict and hence the use of a boundary layer model to predict turbulence levels during uprush grossly under predicts the turbulence and subsequent sediment suspension in the swash zone.

To study the importance of this advected turbulence to sediment suspension we conduct experiments in a water tank designed to generate horizontally homogeneous isotropic turbulence absent mean shear using randomly actuated synthetic jet arrays suspended above both a solid glass plate and a narrowly graded sediment bed. Using jet arrays with different jet spacings allows the generation of high Reynolds number turbulence with variable integral length scales, which we hypothesize control the characteristic length scales in the induced ripple field. Particle image velocimetry and acoustic Doppler velocimetry measurements are used to characterize the near-bed flow and this unique turbulent boundary layer. Metrics include the mean flow and turbulence intensities and stresses, temporal and spatial spectra, dissipation of turbulent kinetic energy, and integral length scales of the turbulence. We leverage our unique dataset to compare the flows over impermeable fixed and permeable mobile sediment beds to explore the source of the ripples, which we were surprised to find in absence of mean shear. By varying the details of the random jet-firing algorithm and using alternate jet spacing configurations, we investigate the relationship between the characteristic metrics of turbulence and the induced ripple dynamics.