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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Matthieu Cartigny

Azpiroz-Zabala, M., Cartigny, M.J.B., Sumner, E.J., Clare, M.A., Talling, P.J., Parsons, D.R. & Cooper, C. (2017). A general model for the helical structure of geophysical flows in channel bends. Geophysical Research Letters 44(23): 11,932-11,941.

Author(s) from Durham


Meandering channels formed by geophysical flows (e.g. rivers and seafloor turbidity currents) include the most extensive sediment transport systems on Earth. Previous measurements from rivers show how helical flow at meander bends plays a key role in sediment transport and deposition. Turbidity currents differ from rivers in both density and velocity profiles. These differences, and the lack of field measurements from turbidity currents, have led to multiple models for their helical flow around bends. Here we present the first measurements of helical flow in submarine turbidity currents. These ten flows lasted for 1-to-10 days, were up to ~80-metres thick, and displayed a consistent helical structure. This structure comprised two vertically-stacked cells, with the bottom cell rotating with the opposite direction to helical flow in rivers. Furthermore, we propose a general model that predicts the range of helical flow structures observed in rivers, estuaries and turbidity currents based on their density stratification.