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Flow separation in meander bends


IT is generally assumed that downstream flow through meander bends is helicoidal and is accompanied by a transverse, bottom flow component directed towards the inner bank1–3. Thus particles of sediment on a point bar are transported at some angle inwards from the generalised local downstream flow vector4,5. As pointed out by Bagnold2, however, “… a stage must be reached at which the flow along the inner boundary becomes unstable and breaks away from the boundary, leaving an intervening space occupied by a zone of unstable and confused motion …”. The experimental results of Leopold et al.5 leave no doubt that this phenomenon of flow separation (Fig. 1) can be a highly important feature in river hydraulics. Since 1960, however, no workers have extended these initial experimental ideas into field situations. Existing models of sedimentation and erosion in sinuous channels4,5 ignore any possible effects of flow separation. Here we draw attention to examples of flow separation in natural meander bends and attempt to define an empirical criterion for predicting the onset of separation.

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LEEDER, M., BRIDGES, P. Flow separation in meander bends. Nature 253, 338–339 (1975).

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