The dynamics of submarine gravity currents

Esther Sumner has two new papers on the dynamics of field-scale submarine gravity currents in the Black Sea. Both studies made use of NERCs state-of-the-art autonomous underwater vehicle Autosub3 to measure the dynamics of the flow.

A paper published in Geophysical Research Letters presents the first direct measurements of hydraulic jumps in an active submarine gravity current. Hydraulic jumps, which are implicated in a wide range of seafloor processes, had been suspected to be an important feature of submarine gravity currents for almost half a century.

A second paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research presents the first data showing the three-dimensional velocity and density structure of an active submarine gravity current traveling around a bend. Understanding how gravity currents interact with and form bends is critical to predicting system architecture and evolution. This study shows that radial pressure gradients, which have previously largely been ignored, are in fact critical to accurately modeling the dynamics of the flow.

The papers, which are co-authored by colleagues in NOC, the School of Geography and the Universities of Leeds and Hull are available here and here.