Authors:Rachael Bonnebaigt; C. P. Caulfield; P. F. Linden Pages: 3 - 25 Abstract: Abstract We present experimental results demonstrating that, for the turbulent plume from a buoyancy source that is vertically distributed over the full area of a wall, detrainment qualitatively changes the shape of the ambient buoyancy profile that develops in a sealed space. Theoretical models with one-way-entrainment predict stratifications that are qualitatively different from the stratifications measured in experiments. A peeling plume model, where density and vertical velocity vary linearly across the width of the plume, so that plume fluid “peels” off into the ambient at intermediate heights, more accurately captures the shape of the ambient buoyancy profiles measured in experiments than a conventional one-way-entrainment model does. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-016-9492-x Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Alan Cuthbertson; Janek Laanearu; Magda Carr; Joel Sommeria; Samuel Viboud Pages: 27 - 57 Abstract: Abstract Results are presented from a series of large-scale experiments investigating the internal and near-bed dynamics of bi-directional stratified flows with a net-barotropic component across a submerged, trapezoidal, sill obstruction. High-resolution velocity and density profiles are obtained in the vicinity of the obstruction to observe internal-flow dynamics under a range of parametric forcing conditions (i.e. variable saline and fresh water volume fluxes; density differences; sill obstruction submergence depths). Detailed synoptic velocity fields are measured across the sill crest using 2D particle image velocimetry, while the density structure of the two-layer exchange flows is measured using micro-conductivity probes at several sill locations. These measurements are designed to aid qualitative and quantitative interpretation of the internal-flow processes associated with the lower saline intrusion layer blockage conditions, and indicate that the primary mechanism for this blockage is mass exchange from the saline intrusion layer due to significant interfacial mixing and entrainment under dominant, net-barotropic, flow conditions in the upper freshwater layer. This interfacial mixing is quantified by considering both the isopycnal separation of vertically-sorted density profiles across the sill, as well as calculation of corresponding Thorpe overturning length scales. Analysis of the synoptic velocity fields and density profiles also indicates that the net exchange flow conditions remain subcritical (G < 1) across the sill for all parametric conditions tested. An analytical two-layer exchange flow model is then developed to include frictional and entrainment effects, both of which are needed to account for turbulent stresses and saline entrainment into the upper freshwater layer. The experimental results are used to validate two key model parameters: (1) the internal-flow head loss associated with boundary friction and interfacial shear; and (2) the mass exchange from the lower saline layer into the upper fresh layer due to entrainment. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9523-2 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:C. Cenedese; R. Nokes; J. Hyatt Pages: 59 - 73 Abstract: Abstract In nature, density driven currents often flow over or within a bottom roughness: a sea breeze encountering tall buildings, a shallow flow encountering aquatic vegetation, or a dense oceanic current flowing over a rough bottom. Laboratory experiments investigating the mechanisms by which bottom roughness enhances or inhibits entrainment and dilution in a lock-exchange dense gravity current have been conducted. The bottom roughness has been idealized by an array of vertical, rigid cylinders. Both spacing (sparse vs. dense configuration) and height of the roughness elements compared with the height of the current have been varied. Two-dimensional density fields have been obtained. Experimental results suggest that enhancement of the entrainment/dilution of the current can occur due to two different mechanisms. For a sparse configuration, the dense current propagates between the cylinders and the entrainment is enhanced by the vortices generated in the wake of the cylindrical obstacles. For a dense configuration, the dense current rides on top of the cylinders and the dilution is enhanced by the onset of convective instability between the dense current above the cylinders and the ambient lighter water between the cylinders. For low values of the ratio of the cylinder to lock height \(\lambda \) the dense current behavior approaches that of a current over a smooth bottom, while the largest deviations from the smooth bottom case are observed for large values of \(\lambda \) . PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-016-9501-0 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:M. Ben Meftah; D. Malcangio; F. De Serio; M. Mossa Pages: 75 - 96 Abstract: Abstract The discharge of brackish water, as a dense jet in a natural water body, by the osmotic power plants, undergoes complex mixing processes and has significant environmental impacts. This paper focuses on the mixing processes that develop when a dense round jet outfall perpendicularly enters a shallow flowing current. Extensive experimental measurements of both the salinity and the velocity flow fields were conducted to investigate the hydrodynamic jet behavior within the ambient current. Experiments were carried out in a closed circuit flume at the Coastal Engineering Laboratory (LIC) of the Technical University of Bari (Italy). The salinity concentration and velocity fields were analyzed, providing a more thorough knowledge about the main features of the jet behavior within the ambient flow, such as the jet penetration, spreading, dilution, terminal rise height and its impact point with the flume lower boundary. In this study, special attention is given to understand and confirm the conjecture, not yet experimentally demonstrated, of the development and orientation of the jet vortex structures. Results show that the dense jet is almost characterized by two distinct phases: a rapid ascent phase and a gradually descent phase. The measured flow velocity fields definitely confirm the formation of the counter-rotating vortices pair, within the jet cross-section, during both the ascent and descent phases. Nevertheless, the experimental results show that the counter-rotating vortices pair of both phases (ascent and descent) are of opposite rotational direction. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9515-2 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Y. Jiang; X. Liu Pages: 97 - 116 Abstract: Abstract The dynamics of density current over a bottom covered by macro-roughness elements were investigated by laboratory experiments and a computational model using large eddy simulations. The macro-roughness considered had significant size in comparison with the scale of density current. Five different roughness conditions were considered, namely flat bottom (for reference), half spheres, fine gravels, medium gravels, and large gravels. These bottom conditions had variations in roughness element size, shape, angularity, and spatial configuration. The density current was a lock-exchange type with a density difference of 1% between the two fluids initially separated by a gate in the middle. In the computational model, the roughness was captured using two different methods depending on the size of the roughness elements. For the large roughness elements, i.e., the half spheres and the medium and large gravels, an immersed boundary method was used to resolve the surface of each gravel, which was obtained through 3D laser scanning. The realistic and physically correct placement of these scanned objects in the simulation domain was achieved using a computer tool which can detect the collision of rigid bodies and simulate their dynamics. For the fine gravels, a rough wall function was used. The computational model was validated with the data measured in the experiments, including front position and velocity, and point velocity measurement within the current. The results show that density currents over macro-roughness have distinct behavior from those over a smooth boundary. The characteristics (size, angularity, and pavement pattern) of the macro-roughness play a key role in the current development. Macro-roughness significantly retards the front propagation and enhances entrainment. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-016-9500-1 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Antonino Viviano; Rosaria E. Musumeci; Enrico Foti Pages: 117 - 148 Abstract: Abstract Effects of surface waves on gravity current propagation are studied by means of a numerical model. The adopted modeling approach couples a Boussinesq-type of model for surface waves and a gravity current model for stratified flows. In particular two different turbulence closure models are introduced which take into account subgrid turbulence and an additional depth-constant eddy-viscosity. The turbulence parameters are calibrated by means of experimental data on the time evolution of the heavy front, obtained both in the absence and in the presence of regular surface waves. Velocity fields, heavy and light front position, shear stresses, vorticity and entrainment calculated by the model are analyzed. The turbulence closure which includes both uniform and Smagorinsky type eddy viscosity allows a better description of the actual gravity current propagation. In particular, the results highlight the fact that the presence of the oscillatory motion causes, simultaneously, a reduction in turbulence and an increase in the mixing of heavy and light fluids. Such a result is in agreement with the experimental observations. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9527-y Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Peng Wang; Tamay M. Özgökmen; Angelique C. Haza Pages: 149 - 171 Abstract: Abstract Internal gravity waves that are generated in the open ocean have a universal frequency spectrum, called Garrett–Munk spectrum. By initializing internal waves that satisfy the Garrett–Munk spectrum in a non-hydrostatic numerical model, we investigate the material dispersion produced by these internal waves. Three numerical experiments are designed: Exp.-1 uses a linearly stratified fluid, Exp.-2 has an upper mixed layer, and Exp.-3 incorporates a circular front into the upper mixed layer. Resorting to neutrally buoyant particles, we investigate the dispersion in terms of metrics of the relative dispersion and finite-scale Lyapunov exponent (FSLE). Exp.-1 shows that the dispersion regime produced by these internal waves is between ballistic and diffusive based on relative dispersion, and is however ballistic according to FSLE. The maximum FSLE at scales of 100 m is about 5 day \(^{-1}\) , which is comparable to that calculated using ocean drifters. Exp.-2 demonstrates that internal waves can generate flows and material dispersion in an upper mixed layer. However, when mixed layer eddies are present, as in Exp.-3, the dispersion in the mixed layer is controlled by the eddies. In addition, we show that inertial oscillations do not affect the relative dispersion, but impact FSLE at scales of inertial oscillations. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-016-9491-y Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Jorge S. Salinas; Mrugesh Shringarpure; Mariano I. Cantero; S. Balachandar Pages: 173 - 200 Abstract: Abstract In this work we address the role of turbulence on mixing of clear layer of fluid with sediment-laden layer of fluid at a sediment concentration interface. This process can be conceived as the entrainment of sediment-free fluid into the sediment-laden layer, or alternatively, as the transport of sediment into the top sediment-free flow. This process is governed by four parameters—Reynolds number of the flow \(Re_\tau\) , non-dimensional settling velocity of the sediment (proxy for sediment size) \(\tilde{V}\) , Richardson number \(Ri_\tau\) and Schmidt number Sc. For this work we have performed direct numerical simulations for fixed Reynolds and Schmidt numbers while varying the values of Richardson number and particle settling velocity. In the simple model considered here, the flow’s momentum and turbulence pre-exists over the entire layer of fluid, while the sediment is initially confined to a layer close to the bed. Mixing of sediment-free fluid with the sediment-laden layer is associated primarily with upward transport of sediment and buoyancy. There is no simultaneous upward transport of fluid momentum and turbulence into the sediment-free fluid layer, which is already in motion and turbulent. The analysis performed shows that the ability of the flow to transport a given sediment size decreases with the distance from the bottom, and thus only fine enough sediment particles are transported across the sediment concentration interface. For these cases, the concentration profiles evolve to a final steady state in good agreement with the well-known Rouse profile. The approach towards the Rouse profile happens through a transient self-similar state. This behavior of the flow is not seen for larger particles. Detailed analysis of the three dimensional structure of the sediment concentration interface shows the mechanisms by which sediment particles are lifted up by tongues of sediment-laden fluid with positive correlation between vertical velocity and sediment concentration. Finally, the mixing ability of the flow is addressed by monitoring the time evolution of the center of mass of the sediment-laden layer and the vertical location of the sediment-free/sediment-laden interface. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9521-4 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Mohamad M. Nasr-Azadani; Eckart Meiburg; Benjamin Kneller Pages: 201 - 223 Abstract: Abstract Direct Numerical Simulations are employed to investigate the mixing dynamics of turbidity currents interacting with seamounts of various heights. The mixing properties are found to be governed by the competing effects of turbulence amplification and enhanced dissipation due to the three-dimensional topography. In addition, particle settling is seen to play an important role as well, as it affects the local density stratification, and hence the stability, of the current. The interplay of these different mechanisms results in the non-monotonic dependence of the mixing behavior on the height of the seamount. Regions of dilute lock fluid concentration generally mix more intensely as a result of the seafloor topography, while concentrated lock fluid remains relatively unaffected. For long times, the strongest mixing occurs for intermediate bump heights. Particle settling is seen to cause turbidity currents to mix more intensely with the ambient than gravity currents. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-016-9477-9 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Maarten van Reeuwijk; Dominik Krug; Markus Holzner Pages: 225 - 239 Abstract: Abstract We investigate the effect of buoyancy on the small-scale aspects of turbulent entrainment by performing direct numerical simulation of a gravity current and a wall jet. In both flows, we detect the turbulent/nonturbulent interface separating turbulent from irrotational ambient flow regions using a range of enstrophy iso-levels spanning many orders of magnitude. Conform to expectation, the relative enstrophy isosurface velocity \(v_n\) in the viscous superlayer scales with the Kolmogorov velocity for both flow cases. We connect the integral entrainment coefficient E to the small-scale entrainment and observe excellent agreement between the two estimates throughout the viscous superlayer. The contribution of baroclinic torque to \(v_n\) is negligible, and we show that the primary reason for reduced entrainment in the gravity current as compared to the wall-jet are 1) the reduction of \(v_n\) relative to the integral velocity scale \(u_T\) ; and 2) the reduction in the surface area of the isosurfaces. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9514-3 Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Ayse Yuksel-Ozan; George Constantinescu Pages: 241 - 265 Abstract: Abstract The paper reports results of large eddy simulations of lock exchange compositional gravity currents with a low volume of release advancing in a horizontal, long channel. The channel contains an array of spanwise-oriented square cylinders. The cylinders are uniformly distributed within the whole channel. The flow past the individual cylinders is resolved by the numerical simulation. The paper discusses how the structure and evolution of the current change with the main geometrical parameters of the flow (e.g., solid volume fraction, ratio between the initial height of the region containing lock fluid and the channel depth, ratio between the initial length and height of the region containing lock fluid) and the Reynolds number. Though in all cases with a sufficiently large solid volume fraction the current transitions to a drag-dominated regime, the value of the power law coefficient, α, describing the front position’s variation with time (x f ~ t α , where t is the time measured from the removal of the lock gate) is different between full depth cases and partial depth cases. The paper also discusses how large eddy simulation (LES) results compare with findings based on shallow-water equations. In particular, LES results show that the values of α are not always equal to values predicted by shallow water theory for the limiting cases where the current height is comparable, or much smaller, than the channel depth. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-016-9490-z Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Vincent H. Chu; Wihel Altai Pages: 267 - 282 Abstract: Abstract A two-dimensional inviscid model of the gravity-current head produced by the release of a relatively small volume of dense fluid from behind a tall lock gate is constructed by Lagrangian block simulation. Three numerical experiments are conducted for the lock’s height-to-length aspect ratios H/L o = 8, 4 and 2. The front speeds obtained by the simulations agree with the laboratory observation for a similar range of aspect ratios. The floor velocity in the wake behind these heads is found to be greater than their front speed. The high floor velocity is caused by the impingement of the coherent wake vortex on the floor. It is a condition that permits these gravity-current heads to maintain their structural integrity so that the fine sediments can travel with the head over long distances on the ocean floor. The structural coherence of the current head depends on the lock aspect ratio. The gravity-current head produced by the release from the lock with the highest aspect ratio of H/L o = 8 is most coherent and relatively has the greatest floor velocity and the least trailing current behind the head. PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9519-y Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:Marius Ungarish Pages: 283 - 333 Abstract: Abstract We present a brief review of the recent investigations on gravity currents in horizontal channels with non-rectangular cross-section area (such as triangle, \(\bigvee \) -valley, circle/semi-circle, trapezoid) which occur in nature (e.g., rivers) and constructed environment (tunnels, reservoirs, canals). To be specific, we discuss the propagation of a gravity current (GC) in a horizontal channel along the horizontal coordinate x, with gravity g acting in the \(-z\) direction, and y the horizontal–lateral coordinate. The bottom and top of the channel are at \(z=0,H\) . The “standard” problem is concerned with 2D flow in a channel with rectangular (or laterally unbounded) cross-section area (CSA). Recent investigations have successfully extended the standard knowledge to the channels of CSA given by the quite general \(-f_1(z)\le y \le f_2(z)\) for \(0 \le z \le H\) . This includes the practical \(\bigvee \) -valley, triangle, circle/semi-circle and trapezoid; these geometries may be in “up” or “down” setting with respect to gravity, e.g., \(\bigtriangleup \) and \(\bigtriangledown \) . The major objective of the extended theory is to predict the height of the interface \(z=h(x,t)\) and the velocity (averaged over the CSA) u(x, t), where t is time; the prediction includes the speed and position of the nose \(u_N(t), x_N(t)\) . We show that the motion is governed by a set of simplified equations, called “model,” that provides versatile and insightful solutions and trends. The emphasis in on a high-Reynolds-number current whose motion is dominated by buoyancy–inertia balance; in particular a GC released from a lock, which also contains general effects such as front and internal jumps (shocks), and reflected bore. We discuss two-layer, one-layer, and box models; Boussinesq and non-Boussinesq systems; compositional and particle-driven cases; and the effect of stratification of the ambient fluid. The models are self-contained, and admit realistic initial and boundary conditions. The governing equations are amenable to analytical solutions in some special circumstances. Some salient features of the buoyancy-viscous regime, and the estimate for the length at which transition to this regime takes place, are also presented. Some experimental support to the theory, and open questions for further investigations, are also mentioned. The major conclusions are (1) The CSA geometry has significant influence on the motion of the GC; and (2) The new theory is a useful, very significant, extension of the standard two-dimensional GC problem. The standard current is just a particular case, \(f_{1,2} =\) constants, among many other covered by the new theory . PubDate: 2018-02-01 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9535-y Issue No:Vol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

Authors:C. W. Higgins; M. G. Wing; J. Kelley; C. Sayde; J. Burnett; H. A. Holmes Abstract: Abstract We used an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to lift and suspend distributed temperature sensing (DTS) technologies to observe the onset of an early morning transition from stable to unstably stratified atmospheric conditions. DTS employs a fiber optic cable interrogated by laser light, and uses the temperature dependent Raman scattering phenomenon and the speed of light to obtain a discrete spatial measurement of the temperature along the cable. The UAS/DTS combination yielded observations of temperature in the lower atmosphere with high resolution (1 s and 0.1 m) and extent (85 m) that revealed the detailed processes that occurred over a single morning transition. The experimental site was selected on the basis of previous experiments and long term data records; which indicate that diurnal boundary layer development and wind sectors are predictable and consistent. The data showed a complex interplay of motions that occur during the morning transition that resulted in propagation and growth of unstable wave modes. We observed a rapid cooling of the air aloft (layer above the strong vertical temperature gradient) layer directly after sunrise due to vertical mixing followed by an erosion of the strong gradient at the stable layer top. Midway through the transition, unstable wave modes were observed that are consistent with Kelvin–Helmholtz motions. These motions became amplified through the later stages of the transition. PubDate: 2018-01-13 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9569-1

Authors:Alireza Keshavarzi; Chij Kumar Shrestha; Bruce Melville; Hadi Khabbaz; Mohsen Ranjbar-Zahedani; James Ball Abstract: Abstract Previous investigations indicate that scour around bridge piers is one of the most important factors for the failure of waterway bridges. Hence, it is essential to determine the accurate scour depth around the bridge piers. Most of the previous studies were based on scour around a single pier; however, in practice, new bridges are usually wide and then piers comprise two circular piers aligned in the flow direction that together support the loading of the structure. In this study, the effect on maximum scour depth of the spacing between two piers aligned in the flow direction was investigated experimentally under clear water scour conditions. The results show that the maximum scour depth at upstream of the front pier occurs when the spacing between the two piers is 2.5 times the diameter of the pier. Two semi empirical equations have been developed to predict the maximum scour depth at upstream of both front and rear piers as a function of the spacing between the piers, in terms of a pier-spacing factor. If the new equations for the pier-spacing factor are used with some of the existing equations for scour at a single pier, the predicted scouring depths are in good agreement with observed results. The S/M equation exhibited the best performance among the various equations tested and was recommended for use in prediction of the equilibrium scour depth. The findings of this study can be used to facilitate the positioning of piers when scouring is a design concern. PubDate: 2018-01-09 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9572-6

Authors:Faranak Behzadi; Behrouz Shamsaei; James C. Newman Abstract: Abstract A Riemann-solver scheme, using primitive variables rather than conserved variables, is configured and tuned for the solution of the fully-coupled two-dimensional shallow water and contaminant transport equations. This scheme is based on the unstructured finite volume discretization using primitive-variable Roe-flux approximation with an entropy fix. The primitive-variable flux associated with the exact source-term balancing is well-behaved and well-balanced for both still-water and dry regions with arbitrary bed topography. Second-order accuracy is used in space and time. The present study uses a nonlinear implicit scheme based on Newton-iterative algorithm for the time integration. In order to show the accuracy of the scheme, numerical results are verified by different test cases for contaminant advection and diffusion. A scenario of contaminant transport in a complex geometry with wet and dry elements is also simulated to demonstrate that the present work can be implemented on practical applications involving flooding and contaminant transport. PubDate: 2017-12-27 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9571-7

Authors:Manish Pandey; P. K. Sharma; Z. Ahmad; U. K. Singh Abstract: Abstract Variation of temporal scour depth around circular piers under clear-water scour condition was studied experimentally for a variability of configuration studies, including different size of circular piers. A total of 96 experiments were carried out with more than 800 data sets of temporal scour depth in non-uniform gravel bed. The experimental data were used to calculate the temporal scour depth at different planes i.e. 0°, 90°, 180° and 270°, 0° plane indicates the maximum and 180° plane indicates minimum scour zones. Some of the previous methods of estimating temporal scour depth at 0° plane are studied in this study. Three temporal scour depths equations for 0°, 90°, 270° and 180° planes have been proposed in this study. The predictions of the temporal scour depth improved after the revised methods of Kothyari et al. (J Hydraul Eng 133(11):1229–1240, 2007). Results of the present proposed equation for 0° plane were compared with latest available relationships in literature and found in good agreements with observed values. PubDate: 2017-12-23 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9570-8

Authors:P. Ouro; B. Fraga; N. Viti; A. Angeloudis; T. Stoesser; C. Gualtieri Abstract: Abstract The results of large-eddy simulations of flow and transient solute transport over a backward facing step and through a 180° bend are presented. The simulations are validated successfully in terms of hydrodynamics and tracer transport with experimental velocity data and measured residence time distribution curves confirming the accuracy of the method. The hydrodynamics are characterised by flow separation and subsequent recirculation in vertical and horizontal directions and the solute dispersion process is a direct response to the significant unsteadiness and turbulence in the flow. The turbulence in the system is analysed and quantified in terms of power density spectra and covariance of velocity fluctuations. The injection of an instantaneous passive tracer and its dispersion through the system is simulated. Large-eddy simulations enable the resolution of the instantaneous flow field and it is demonstrated that the instabilities of intermittent large-scale structures play a distinguished role in the solute transport. The advection and diffusion of the scalar is governed by the severe unsteadiness of the flow and this is visualised and quantified. The analysis of the scalar mass transport budget quantifies the mechanisms controlling the turbulent mixing and reveals that the mass flux is dominated by advection. PubDate: 2017-12-18 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9567-3

Authors:G. Huang; C. Le Ribault; I. Vinkovic; S. Simoëns Abstract: Abstract The micro-scale prediction of sand trapping or take-off over hilly terrains is a crucial issue in semi-arid regions for soil depletion. In this context, large eddy simulations around one or several hills are performed in order to provide statistical parameters to characterize the flow at micro-scales and provide data for mesoscale modelling. We focus on the determination of recirculation zones since they play an important role in solid particle erosion or entrapment. A new wall modeling adapted from Huang et al. (J Turbul 17:1–24, 2016) for rough boundary layers is found to improve the prediction of the recirculation zone length downstream of an isolated hill and is used for all the numerical cases presented here. A geometrical parameterization of the recirculation zones is proposed. When the recirculation region is assumed to have an ellipsoidal shape, the total surface of the recirculation can be obtained from this new parameterization and easily extrapolated to more general dune configurations. Numerical results are compared with experiments performed in our laboratory (Simoëns et al. in Procedia IUTAM 17:110–118, 2015) and good agreement is achieved. We explore general aerodynamic cases deduced from the urban canopy scheme of Oke (Energy Build 11:103–113, 1988). In this scheme the momentum and mass exchange between the upper layer and the space between hills is sorted according to the streamwise hill spacing within three basic cases of skimming, wake or isolated flow. The study of the recirculation zones, the mean velocity and Reynolds stress profiles around an isolated or two consecutive hills with different distances shows that the double hill configuration with 3H separation behaves as much as a whole to the upcoming flow. The vortex formed between the crests does not strongly affect the overall evolution of the outer flow. By an a priori prediction of the preferential zones of erosion and accumulation of fictive particles, it is shown that isolated dunes present more deposition and less erosion than two-hill configurations. The results presented in this study will be discussed in the presence of Lagrangian transport of sand particles above 2D Gaussian hills in future work. PubDate: 2017-12-07 DOI: 10.1007/s10652-017-9552-x