Modeling Nonconfined Density Currents Using 3D Hydrodynamic Models
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Density currents generated by marine brine discharges, e.g., from desalination plants, can have a negative impact on marine ecosystems. It is therefore important to accurately predict their behavior. Predictions are often made using computational hydrodynamic models, which should be validated using field or laboratory measurements. This paper focuses on the setup and validation of three-dimensional (3D) models for estimating the transport and mixing processes that occur in these types of flows. Through a comprehensive sensitivity analysis based on the reproduction of several laboratory-generated density currents, a set of recommendations are made regarding the modeling aspects, including the domain discretization, the treatment of momentum at the density current source, the hydrostatic hypothesis and the selection of turbulence closure models. Finally, the proposed numerical model setup is validated using different experimental data showing good agreement in terms of the main variables considered: errors of less than 1.3% for dilution and of 6% for velocity. This study serves as a first step toward the full validation of these 3D hydrodynamic models for the simulation of field-scale density currents.