Transition of a Hyperpycnal Flow Into a Saline Turbidity Current Due to Differential Diffusivities

Liang Zhao, Raphael Ouillon, Bernhard Vowinckel, Eckart Meiburg*, Benjamin Kneller, Zhiguo He

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


We provide a new perspective on the transition of hyperpycnal flows into saline turbidity currents, which permits longer runout lengths than might be otherwise expected. This mechanism relies on the differential turbulent diffusion of salt and sediment, and in contrast to ambient saltwater entrainment it enables the salinification of the freshwater current without diluting the sediment concentration field by a corresponding amount. The freshness-to-sediment ratio is introduced in order to quantify the transition process. The results of high-resolution simulations provide estimates for the transition distance of hyperpycnal model flows into saline turbidity currents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11,875-11,884
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
Early online date13 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments: E.M. gratefully acknowledges support through NSF grant CBET‐1438052. L.Z. thanks The National Natural Science Foundation of China (11672267) and the China Scholarship Council for providing him with a scholarship to study at UCSB. B.V. was supported by a Feodor‐Lynen scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. Computational resources for this work were made available by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), which is supported by NSF grant TGCTS150053. All of the data employed in this work can be obtained at


  • turbidity current
  • hypercynal flow
  • diffusivity


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