2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 345-11
Presentation Time: 3:50 PM

A NUMERICAL STUDY OF TURBULENT FLOW OVER AEOLIAN DUNE FIELDS AT THE WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT


ANDERSON, William, Mechanical Engineering Department, Univ. of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX 75080, CHAMECKI, Marcelo, Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, KOCUREK, Gary, Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C9000, Austin, TX 78712 and MOHRIG, David, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 2275 Speedway, Stop C9000, Austin, TX 78712-1692, William.Anderson@utdallas.edu

The structure and dynamics of fully-developed turbulent flows over terrestrial aeolian dune fields are studied using large-eddy simulation with an immersed boundary method. An aspect of particular importance in these flows is the downwind migration of coherent motions associated with Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities, originating at the dune crests. These instabilities are responsible for enhanced downward transport of high momentum fluid via the so-called turbulent sweep mechanism. However, the presence of such structures and their role in determining the bulk characteristics of fully developed dune field sublayer aerodynamics has received relatively limited attention. Moreover, many existing studies address mostly symmetric or mildly asymmetric dune forms. The White Sands National Monument is a field of aeolian gypsum sand dunes located in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. Prevailing winds from multiple directions at the site result in a complex, anisotropic dune field. In the dune field sublayer, the flow statistics resemble a mixing layer: at approximately the dune crest height, vertical profiles of streamwise velocity exhibit an inflection and turbulent Reynolds stresses are maximum; below this, the streamwise and vertical velocity fluctuations are positively and negatively skewed, respectively. We evaluate the spatial structure of Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities present in the dune field sublayer -- shear length, Ls, and vortex spacing, Lambda_x -- and show that Ls = m Lambda_x, where m is approximately 7 in the different sections considered (for turbulent mixing layers, 7 < m < 10, Rogers and Moser, 1994: Phys. Fluids A, 6, 903-922). These results guide discussion on the statistics of aerodynamic drag across the dunes; probability density functions of time-series of aerodynamic drag for the dunes are shown to exhibit skewness and variance much greater than values reported for turbulent boundary layer flow over a homogeneous roughness distribution. Thus, we propose that aeolian processes and dune pattern evolution are strongly influenced by the mixing layer physics in the dune field sublayer, and these physics are different to what would otherwise be predicted when using the equilibrium logarithmic law.