Parameterization and Results of SWE for Gravity Currents Are Sensitive to the Definition of Depth

Sara Venuleo*, Dubravka Pokrajac, Talia Tokyay, George Constantinescu, Anton J. Schleiss, Mário J. Franca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Rigorously derived shallow water equations (SWEs) are applied to results of large eddy simulation (LES) of a continuously fed gravity current in order to assess (1) sensitivity of current depth results to its definition; (2) coefficients in depth-averaged continuity and momentum equation due to the nonuniformity of density and velocity profiles; and (3) sensitivity of entrainment coefficient to definition of current depth. It is shown that using different definitions of the current depth may produce significantly different numerical results. The coefficients due to nonuniformity in the continuity equation are very close to unity, whereas the coefficients in the momentum flux and the pressure term in the momentum equation are different from unity by a margin that is very sensitive to the definition of current depth. The entrainment coefficient is more sensitive to the selected parameterization than to the definition of the current depth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1868
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number5
Early online date12 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Bibliographical note

The first author acknowledges support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF Grant No. 200021_159249). The second author acknowledges support from the Binks Trust Foundation. The authors would like to acknowledge the associate editor and the two anonymous reviewers for the constructive comments, which allowed significant improvement of the earlier version of this article


  • Current depth definition
  • Gravity currents
  • Shallow water equations (SWEs)
  • Shape factors


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