Sand ripples generated by regular oscillatory flow

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The prediction of ripple geometry is a necessary precursor to the prediction of sand transport under waves for ripple regime conditions. The paper begins with a comparison of four existing methods for predicting the geometry of sand ripples generated by oscillatory flow. The comparison points to substantial differences between ripple dimensions predicted by the methods, especially for field-scale conditions. Ripple geometry experiments carried out in a large oscillatory flow tunnel are then described. The experiments involved a range of sand sizes and sinusoidal and asymmetric flows with periods and velocities typical of field conditions. Comparison of measured and predicted ripple geometries leads to the recommendation that the method of Mogridge, Davies and Willis be used to predict ripple geometry for field-scale oscillatory flows. The Nielsen method yields good predictions of ripple length, but the rapid fall-off in ripple steepness predicted by the Nielsen method at high mobility number is not supported by the measurements. The lengths and heights of symmetric ripples produced by sinusoidal flows are found to be similar to the lengths and heights of asymmetric ripples produced by "equivalent" asymmetric flows. Three-dimensional ripples occur with fine sand in long-period flows typical of field conditions. The dimensions of these ripples cannot be predicted using methods developed for two-dimensional ripples. Previously suggested criteria for predicting the occurrence of three-dimensional ripples fail when tested against a wide range of flow and sand conditions. The occurrence of three-dimensional ripples and the effects of ripple and flow history on ripple geometry require further research. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages14
JournalCoastal Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


  • ripples
  • waves
  • flow tunnel
  • sand transport


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