Dynamics of a Turbulent Buoyant Plume in a Stratified Fluid: An Idealized Model of Subglacial Discharge in Greenland Fjords Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThis study reports the results of large-eddy simulations of an axisymmetric turbulent buoyant plume in a stratified fluid. The configuration used is an idealized model of the plume generated by a subglacial discharge at the base of a tidewater glacier with an ambient stratification typical of Greenland fjords. The plume is discharged from a round source of various diameters and characteristic stratifications for summer and winter are considered. The classical theory for the integral parameters of a turbulent plume in a homogeneous fluid gives accurate predictions in the weakly stratified lower layer up to the pycnocline, and the plume dynamics are not sensitive to changes in the source diameter. In winter, when the stratification is similar to an idealized two-layer case, turbulent entrainment and generation of internal waves by the plume top are in agreement with the theoretical and numerical results obtained for turbulent jets in a two-layer stratification. In summer, instead, the stratification is more complex and turbulent entrainment by the plume top is significantly reduced. The subsurface layer in summer is characterized by a strong density gradient and the oscillating plume generates internal waves that might serve as an indicator of submerged plumes not penetrating to the surface.

publication date

  • October 2017