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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Florian Pohl

Eggenhuisen, Joris T., Tilston, Mike C., Leeuw, Jan, Pohl, Florian & Cartigny, Matthieu J. B. (2020). Turbulent diffusion modelling of sediment in turbidity currents: An experimental validation of the Rouse approach. The Depositional Record 6(1): 203-216.

Author(s) from Durham


The margins of submarine channels are characterized by deposits that fine away from the channel thalweg. This grain‐size trend is thought to reflect upward fining trends in the currents that formed the channels. This assumption enables reconstruction of turbidity currents from the geologic record, thereby providing insights into the overall sediment load of the system. It is common to assume that the density structure of a turbidity current can be modelled with simple diffusion models, such as the Rouse equation. Yet the Rouse equation was developed to describe how particles should be distributed through the water column in open‐channel flows, which fundamentally differ from turbidity currents in terms of their flow structure. Consequently, a rigorous appraisal of the Rouse model in deep‐marine settings is needed to validate the aforementioned flow reconstructions. The present study addresses this gap in the literature by providing a robust evaluation of the Rouse model's predictions of vertical particle segregation in two experimental turbidity currents that differ only in terms of their initial bed slopes (4° versus 8°). The concentration profiles of the coarsest sediment, which is suspended predominantly in the lower part of the flow, is accurately reproduced by the Rouse equation. Significant mismatches appear, however, in the concentration of finer grained sediment, especially towards the top of the flow. This problem is caused by the mixing with clear water at the top of turbidity currents. Caution is therefore advised in applying a Rouse model to levee overspill and levee‐crest deposits. Nonetheless, the Rouse model shows good agreement with laboratory measurements in the lower regions of the flow and for the coarser grains that are predominantly transported in the lower sections of submarine channels.