Laboratory Observations of Sand Ripple Evolution in a Small Oscillatory Flow Tunnel

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Joseph Calantoni1, Margaret L Palmsten1, Jaclyn Chu1, Blake J Landry2 and Allison Penko1, (1)Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, MS, United States, (2)University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Urbana, IL, United States
The dynamics of sand ripples are vital to understanding numerous coastal processes such as sediment transport, wave attenuation, boundary layer development, and seafloor acoustic properties. Experimental work was conducted in a small oscillatory flow tunnel at the Sediment Dynamics Laboratory at the Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center. Six different monochromatic oscillatory forcings, three with velocity asymmetry and three without, were used to investigate sand ripple dynamics using a unimodal grain size distribution with D50=0.65 mm. The experiments represent an extension of previous work using bimodal grain size distributions. A DSLR camera with a 180-degree fisheye lens collected images of the sediment bed profile every 2 seconds to resolve changes in ripple geometries and migration rates resulting from the different flow conditions for over 127 hours (229,388 images). Matlab © algorithms undistorted the fisheye images and quantified the ripple geometries, wavelengths, heights, and migration rates as a function of flow forcing. The mobility number was kept nearly constant by increasing and decreasing the semi-excursion amplitude and the wave frequency, respectively. We observed distinct changes in ripple geometry and migration rate for the pair of oscillatory forcings having nearly identical mobility numbers. The results suggested that the commonly used mobility number might not be appropriate to characterize ripple geometry or migration rates.