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Studies on gravitational spreading currents


Chen, Jing-Chang (1980) Studies on gravitational spreading currents. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


The objective of this investigation is to examine the buoyancy-driven gravitational spreading currents, especially as applied to ocean disposal of wastewater and the accidental release of hazardous fluids.

A series of asymptotic solutions are used to describe the displacement of a gravitationally driven spreading front during an inertial phase of motion and the subsequent viscous phase. Solutions are derived by a force scale analysis and a self-similar technique for flows in stagnant, homogeneous, or linearly density-stratified environments. The self-similar solutions for inertial-buoyancy currents are found using an analogy to the well-known shallow-water wave propagation equations and also to those applicable to a blast wave in gasdynamics. For the viscous-buoyancy currents the analogy is to the viscous long wave approximation to a nonlinear diffusive wave, or thermal wave propagation. Other similarity solutions describing the initial stage of motion of the flow formed by the collapse of a finite volume fluid are developed by analogy to the expansion of a gas cloud into a vacuum. For the case of a continuous discharge there is initially a starting jet flow followed by the buoyancy-driven spreading flow. The jet mixing zone in such flows is described using Prandtl's mixing length theory. Dimensional analysis is used to derive the relevant scaling factors describing these flows.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:gravity currents, buoyancy driven flows in both inertial and viscous phases, force scale analysis, similarity solutions, gravity current flows in stagnant homogeneous or linearly density-stratified environments
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Civil Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • List, E. John (advisor)
  • Vanoni, Vito A. (co-advisor)
  • Brooks, Norman H. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Brooks, Norman H.
  • Wu, Theodore Yao-tsu
  • Cohen, Donald S.
  • Vanoni, Vito A.
Defense Date:17 March 1980
Author Email: jcchen50 (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science FoundationGK-35774X
National Science FoundationENG75-02985
National Science FoundationENG77-27398
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:09302010-090407312
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:6077
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:30 Sep 2010 18:34
Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 23:23

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