Three-dimensional gravity-current flow within a subaqueous bend: Spatial evolution and force balance variations



The nature of three-dimensional flow in submarine channel bends is poorly understood, largely due to the absence of detailed data from natural channels. Herein, data from density-driven flows in a large reservoir on the Huanghe (Yellow) River are presented showing the spatio-temporal variation of flow around a subaqueous bend. The data demonstrate for the first time that reversed helical flow, relative to that found in river channel bends, can occur from the centrifugal forcing of flow, even when the Coriolis force acts in the opposite direction. The data also suggest that reversed helical flow fields in submarine channels may be more frequent than currently estimated, notably for bends where Coriolis and centrifugal forces combine in the same direction. In addition, this study provides the first field evidence suggesting that sinuous submarine channels can exhibit an asymmetry in helical flow orientation between left and right-turning bends, which will have major implications for the morphodynamics of submarine channels, their resultant patterns of sedimentation and, ultimately, the distribution of depositional units across submarine fan systems.