A numerical investigation of convective sedimentation



[1] Understanding the fate of riverine sediment in the coastal environment is critical to the health of the coastal ecosystem and the changing morphology. One of the least understood mechanisms of initial deposition is the convective sedimentation of hypopycnal plumes. This study aims at investigating convective sedimentation by means of a numerical model for fine sediment transport solving the non-hydrostatic Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equations for stratified turbulent flow. Model validation is sought by comparison to laboratory results for turbidity and saline currents over a changing slope. The model is shown to be capable of predicting both the upstream supercritical and the downstream subcritical flows. The numerical model is then utilized to study convective sedimentation and its depositional and mixing characteristics. By analyzing model results of more than 40 runs for different inlet sediment concentration (density ratio γ), settling velocity (particle Reynolds number Rep), and inlet velocity/height (inlet Reynolds number Re), four distinct flow regimes are revealed. For large γ, we observe divergent plumes with significant deposits near the inlet. For intermediate γ and large Rep, intense convective fingers are predicted which are only marginally affected by ambient shear flow. Further reducing the density ratio γ or Rep gives weak convective fingers that are significantly affected by the ambient shear flow. Eventually, no convective fingers are observed during the computation for very small γ or Rep. Sediment deposits in the divergent plume and intense convective finger regimes are relatively insensitive to Re. Deposit increases with Re in the weak convective finger regime.