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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to Elucidate Flow Dynamics in Active Density Currents on the Black Sea Shelf

Published: 1 March 2011

Fully funded NERC studentship

Supervisors: Prof Stephen Darby (Geography) and Dr Neil Bressloff (Engineering Sciences).

Submarine channels are formed by density currents; underwater flows of sand, mud and water that are denser than sea water and therefore flow close to the bottom of the ocean: the ‘rivers of the sea’. These channels are the major transport pathway for moving sediments to the deep sea and form the largest sedimentary deposits on Earth. However, the flows that create these channels and their deposits are very difficult to study, typically being infrequent and highly destructive. Consequently, our knowledge of flow dynamics comes mainly from laboratory experiments, and understanding of their deposits from studies of ancient examples now exposed on land. There is almost no other environment on Earth where we do not have any knowledge of how flow processes are linked to their sedimentary deposits and this in the largest deposits on our planet.

This project will employ Fluent software to undertake Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations for the Black Sea Shelf region, using computational meshes based on the high-resolution bathymetry depicted in Figure 1, along with velocity inflow conditions measured through the Bosphorous Strait. Recent studies (Parsons et al., 2010, Geology) have acquired 3D flow velocity data in portions of the main channel network (lower box in Fig. 1) but these data do not encompass other areas of the Black sea shelf affected by the density current, in particular around regions of ‘overbank’ and ‘distributary’ flow that are of particular sedimentological significance (see boxes highlighted at top of Figure 1). This study will focus on quantifying flow structures within: (i) overbank flow regions, (ii) flow around bar forms, and (iii) confluence-diffluence zones.

The project will generate the first insight into the fluid structures of field-scale active density currents. As such the project will generate papers suitable for publication in high impact journals. The work will have high-impact both in academia and within the Energy Industry. As such this studentship offers excellent prospects for candidates interested in a career within either academia or the commercial sector.

The closing date for applications is 1 April 2011.

Eligibility for this studentship is governed by the NERC – please see their website to check your eligibility BEFORE making an application:

For information on how to apply, follow these links  or contact Julie Drewitt, Graduate School Administrator on if you have any further queries.

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