Unsteady Density-Current Equations for Highly Curved Terrain

N. S. Sivakumaran School of Engineering and Applied Science, The George, Washington University, Washington, D.C

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R. F. Dressler School of Engineering and Applied Science, The George, Washington University, Washington, D.C

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Abstract

New nonlinear partial differential equations containing terrain curvature and its rate of change are derived that describe the flow of an atmospheric density current. Unlike the classical hydraulic-type equations for density currents, the new equations are valid for two-dimensional, gradually varied flow over highly curved terrain, hence suitable for computing unsteady (or steady) flows over arbitrary mountain/valley profiles. The model assumes the atmosphere above the density current exerts a known arbitrary variable pressure upon the unknown interface. Later we specialize this to the varying hydrostatic pressure of the atmosphere above. The new equations yield the variable velocity distribution, the interface position, and the pressure distribution that contains a centrifugal component, often significantly larger than its hydrostatic component. These partial differential equations are hyperbolic, and the characteristic equations and characteristic directions are derived. Using these to form a characteristic mesh, a hypothetical unsteady curved-flow problem is calculated, not based upon observed data, merely as an example to illustrate the simplicity of their application to unsteady flows over mountains.

Abstract

New nonlinear partial differential equations containing terrain curvature and its rate of change are derived that describe the flow of an atmospheric density current. Unlike the classical hydraulic-type equations for density currents, the new equations are valid for two-dimensional, gradually varied flow over highly curved terrain, hence suitable for computing unsteady (or steady) flows over arbitrary mountain/valley profiles. The model assumes the atmosphere above the density current exerts a known arbitrary variable pressure upon the unknown interface. Later we specialize this to the varying hydrostatic pressure of the atmosphere above. The new equations yield the variable velocity distribution, the interface position, and the pressure distribution that contains a centrifugal component, often significantly larger than its hydrostatic component. These partial differential equations are hyperbolic, and the characteristic equations and characteristic directions are derived. Using these to form a characteristic mesh, a hypothetical unsteady curved-flow problem is calculated, not based upon observed data, merely as an example to illustrate the simplicity of their application to unsteady flows over mountains.

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