Dynamics of a dense gravity current flowing over a corrugation

Mehmet Ilicak*, Sonya Legg, Alistair Adcroft, Robert Hallberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we investigate the dynamics of a dense gravity currents over different sizes of ridges and canyons. We employ a high resolution idealized isopycnal model and perform a large number of experiments changing the aspect ratio of a ridge/canyon, the Coriolis parameter, the reduced gravity, the background slope and initial overflow thickness. The control run (smooth topography) is in an eddy-regime and the frequencies of the eddies coincide with those of the Filchner overflow (Darelius et al., 2009). Our idealized corrugation experiments show that corrugations steer the plume downslope, and that ridges are more effective than canyons in transporting the overflow to the deep ocean. We find that a corrugation Burger number (Buc) can be used as a parameter to describe the flow over topography. Buc is a combination of a Froude number and the aspect ratio. The maximum downslope transport of a corrugation can be increased when the height of the corrugation increases (Buc increases) or when the width of the corrugation decreases (Buc increases).In addition, we propose a new parameterization of mixing as a function of Buc that can be used to account for unresolved shear in coarse resolution models. The new parameterization captures the increased local shear, thus increasing the turbulent kinetic energy and decreasing the gradient Richardson number. We find reasonable agreement in the overflow thickness and transport between the models with this parameterization and the high resolution models. We conclude that mixing effects of corrugations can be implemented as unresolved shear in an eddy diffusivity formulation and this parameterization can be used in coarse resolution models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-84
Number of pages14
JournalOcean Modelling
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Canyon
  • Gravity current
  • Mixing
  • Overflow
  • Ridge


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