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Impact of density gradients on secondary flow structure at a river confluence
  • Jason Duguay,
  • Pascale Biron,
  • Jay Lacey
Jason Duguay
Concordia University

Corresponding Author:duguay.jason@gmail.com

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Pascale Biron
Concordia University
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Jay Lacey
Université de Sherbrooke
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A small gradient in the densities (Δρ) of two rivers was recently shown to develop coherent streamwise orientated vortices (SOVs) in the mixing interface of their confluence. We further investigate this phenomenon at the Coaticook and Massawippi confluence (Quebec, Canada) using eddy-resolved numerical modelling to examine how the magnitude and direction of Δρ; affect this secondary flow feature. Results show that a front from the denser channel always slides underneath the lighter channel independent of the direction of Δρ. When the fast tributary (Coaticook) is denser, coherent clockwise rotating density SOVs tend to form on the slow (Massawippi) side. However, when the slow Massawippi is denser by the same magnitude, anticlockwise secondary flow caused principally by shear induced interfacial instabilities develop on the fast Coaticook side. This shows the inertia of the tributary opposing the lateral propagation of the dense front shapes the secondary flow characteristics of the mixing interface. Moreover, in the absence of a density difference, anticlockwise SOVs are predicted by the model which correspond well to new aerial observations of anticlockwise SOVs at the site. A densimetric Froude number (Fd) convention accounting for the direction of Δρ is proposed to accurately convey the local inertial forces that oppose the lateral propagation of the dense front. Finally, a conceptual model of the mixing interface’s secondary flow structure over a spectrum of plausible Fd values is proposed. The Fd convention provides a flexible and consistent metric for use in future studies examining the effects of Δρ on river confluence hydrodynamics.