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Self-sharpening induces jet-like structure in seafloor gravity currents
Dorrell, R.M.; Peakall, J.; Darby, S.E.; Parsons, D.R.; Johnson, J.; Summer, E.J.; Wynn, R.B.; Ozsoy, E.; Tezcan, D. (2019). Self-sharpening induces jet-like structure in seafloor gravity currents. Nature Comm. 10(1): 10 pp.
In: Nature Communications. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2041-1723; e-ISSN 2041-1723, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Dorrell, R.M.
  • Peakall, J.
  • Darby, S.E.
  • Parsons, D.R.
  • Johnson, J.
  • Summer, E.J.
  • Wynn, R.B.
  • Ozsoy, E., more
  • Tezcan, D.

    Gravity currents are the primary means by which sediments, solutes and heat are transported across the ocean-floor. Existing theory of gravity current flow employs a statistically-stable model of turbulent diffusion that has been extant since the 1960s. Here we present the first set of detailed spatial data from a gravity current over a rough seafloor that demonstrate that this existing paradigm is not universal. Specifically, in contrast to predictions from turbulent diffusion theory, self-sharpened velocity and concentration profiles and a stable barrier to mixing are observed. Our new observations are explained by statistically-unstable mixing and self-sharpening, by boundary-induced internal gravity waves; as predicted by recent advances in fluid dynamics. Self-sharpening helps explain phenomena such as ultra-long runout of gravity currents and restricted growth of bedforms, and highlights increased geohazard risk to marine infrastructure. These processes likely have broader application, for example to wave-turbulence interaction, and mixing processes in environmental flows.

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