Gravity Current Flow Over Obstacles

G. F. Lane-Serff, L. M. Beai, T. D. Hadfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


When a gravity current meets an obstacle a proportion of the flow may continue over the obstacle while the rest is reflected back as a hydraulic jump. There are many examples of this type of flow, both in the natural and man-made environment (e.g. sea breezes meeting hills, dense gas and liquid releases meeting containment walls). Two-dimensional currents and obstacles, where the reflected jump is in the opposite direction to the incoming current, are examined by laboratory experiment and theoretical analysis. The investigation concentrates on the case of no net flow, so that there is a return flow in the (finite depth) upper layer. The theoretical analysis is based on shallow-water theory. Both a rigid lid and a free surface condition for the top of the upper layer are considered. The flow may be divided into several regions: the inflow conditions, the region around the hydraulic jump, the flow at the obstacle and the flow downstream of the obstacle. Both theoretical and empirical inflow conditions are examined; the jump conditions are based on assuming that the energy dissipation is confined to the lower layer; and the flow over the obstacle is described by hydraulic control theory. The predictions for the proportion of the flow that continues over the obstacle, the speed of the reflected jump and the depth of the reflected flow are compared with the laboratory experiments, and give reasonable agreement. A shallower upper layer (which must result in a faster return velocity in the upper layer) is found to have a significant effect, both on the initial incoming gravity current and on the proportion of the flow that continues over the obstacle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-53
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Jun 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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