A Classification of Clay-Rich Subaqueous Density Flow Structures

Navid Hermidas*, Joris T. Eggenhuisen, Ricardo Silva Jacinto, Stefan M. Luthi, Ferenc Toth, Florian Pohl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study presents a classification for subaqueous clay-laden sediment gravity flows. A series of laboratory flume experiments were performed using 9%, 15%, and 21% sediment mixture concentrations composed of sand, silt, clay, and tap water, on varying bed slopes of 6°, 8°, and 9.5°, and with discharge rates of 10 and 15 m3/hr. In addition to the characteristics of the boundary and plug layers, which have been previously used for the classification of open-channel clay-laden flows, the newly presented classification also incorporates the treatment of the free shear layer. The flow states within the boundary and free shear layers were established using calculation of the inner variable, self-similarity considerations, and the magnitude of the apparent viscosity. Based on the experimental observations four flow types were recognized: (1) a clay-rich plug flow with a laminar free shear layer, a plug layer, and a laminar boundary layer, (2) a top transitional plug flow containing a turbulent free shear layer, a plug layer, and a laminar boundary layer, (3) a transitional turbidity current with a turbulent free shear layer, no plug layer, and a laminar boundary layer, and (4) a fully turbulent turbidity current. A connection between the emplaced deposits and the relevant flow types is drawn and it is shown that a Froude number, two Reynolds numbers, and a dimensionless yield stress parameter are sufficient to associate an experimental flow type with a natural large-scale density flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-966
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • clay-laden flow
  • debrite
  • flow classification
  • plug flow
  • scaling
  • turbidite


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