LES validation of lock-exchange density currents interacting with an emergent bluff obstacle

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We address the capability of large eddy simulation (LES) to predict the physics of density currents interacting with bluff obstacles. Most density currents of interest in engineering and geophysical applications interact with obstacles or topographic features. Validating LES solutions in these contexts is crucial to establish it as a trusted tool. We thus propose a validation effort based on simple geometries that nonetheless pose challenges common to more complex systems, including boundary layer separation and convective instabilities. We focus on lock-exchange gravity currents in the slumping phase interacting with an emergent vertical circular cylinder. Our main investment was in ensuring that the comparison of experimental data and numerical results include, at least, the velocity and the density fields , and derived quantities (e.g., second order moments). Measurements of both density and velocity fields were performed in the side and plan views for cylinder Reynolds numbers, Red, in the range 1300 to 3475. It was found that the LES accurately predicts the temporal evolution of the current front position. The computed front velocity exhibits a maximum relative error less than 8%. A good agreement between the LES and the experimental size and shape of the current head, and billows was found. The overall features upstream the cylinder, including a reflected wave, adverse pressure gradient and backflow, and downstream the cylinder, including the backflow, wake and the formation of a new head are well reproduced by LES. The agreement between the LES and the experimental time-space evolution of current spanwise- and depth-averaged density contours and the instantaneous velocity fields are not affected by Red.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1079
Number of pages25
JournalEnvironmental fluid mechanics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Bluff obstacles
  • Density currents
  • Flow-structure interaction
  • Large eddy simulation (LES)


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