Coherent structure dynamics in turbulent flows past in-stream structures: Some insights gained via numerical simulation

Joongcheol Paik, Cristian Escauriaza, Fotis Sotiropoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Large-scale coherent vortical structures in natural streams and rivers dominate flow and transport processes and impact the stability of stream banks, the diversity and abundance of organisms, and the quality of running waters in aquatic ecosystems. Thus, understanding and being able to model the dynamics of energetic coherent structures in such flows at ecologically relevant scales are crucial prerequisites for developing a science-based ecosystem restoration framework. We review recent progress toward the development of coherent-structure-resolving (CSR) computational fluid dynamics techniques, based on hybrid URANS/LES modeling strategies, for simulating turbulent flows in open-channels with hydraulic structures. CSR simulations of the turbulent horseshoe vortex (THSV) past bed-mounted piers explained the physical mechanism leading to the experimentally documented bimodal velocity fluctuations of the vortex and underscored the importance of the Reynolds number as a key parameter governing the THSV dynamics. Simulations of high Reynolds number flows past surface-piercing, groynelike structures in open channels revealed the complexity of the recirculating region at the upstream face of the groyne, underscored the interaction of the flow in this region with the energetic shear layer shed from the point of separation at the upstream side wall, and demonstrated the importance of flow depth in the vorticity dynamics of such flows. The paper also identifies areas for future work and modeling challenges that need to be addressed for the computational tools to be able to accurately predict flow and transport processes in real-life aquatic environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-993
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Coherent structures
  • Computational fluid dynamics techniques
  • Numerical models
  • Stream restoration
  • Turbulence

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