Sand waves in environmental flows: Insights gained by coupling large-eddy simulation with morphodynamics

Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ali Khosronejad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Sandwaves arise in subaqueous and Aeolian environments as the result of the complex interaction between turbulent flows and mobile sand beds. They occur across a wide range of spatial scales, evolve at temporal scales much slower than the integral scale of the transporting turbulent flow, dominate river morphodynamics, undermine streambank stability and infrastructure during flooding, and sculpt terrestrial and extraterrestrial landscapes. In this paper, we present the vision for our work over the last ten years, which has sought to develop computational tools capable of simulating the coupled interactions of sand waves with turbulence across the broad range of relevant scales: from small-scale ripples in laboratory flumes to mega-dunes in large rivers. We review the computational advances that have enabled us to simulate the genesis and long-term evolution of arbitrarily large and complex sand dunes in turbulent flows using large-eddy simulation and summarize numerous novel physical insights derived from our simulations. Our findings explain the role of turbulent sweeps in the near-bed region as the primary mechanism for destabilizing the sand bed, show that the seeds of the emergent structure in dune fields lie in the heterogeneity of the turbulence and bed shear stress fluctuations over the initially flatbed, and elucidate how large dunes at equilibrium give rise to energetic coherent structures and modify the spectra of turbulence. We also discuss future challenges and our vision for advancing a data-driven simulation-based engineering science approach for site-specific simulations of river flooding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021301
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 AIP Publishing LLC.


Dive into the research topics of 'Sand waves in environmental flows: Insights gained by coupling large-eddy simulation with morphodynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this