Research Group

Surface velocity vector map showing half of the starting jet vortex formed at a tidal inlet.

Kerri Whilden

M.S. Student. Completed, August 2009.

Estuaries depend on the transport of nutrients and sediments from the open sea to help maintain a prosperous environment. One of the major transport mechanisms is the propagation of large two dimensional vortical structures. At the mouth of an inlet, tidal flow forces the formation of two dimensional vortical structures whose lateral extent is much greater than the water depth. After the starting jet vortex dipole detaches from the inlet, secondary vortices shed due to separation from the inlet boundary and eventually reach the starting-jet dipole. An idealized inlet configuration was utilized for laboratory experiments detailing the formation and propagation of the vortex structures with water depths of 3, 5, and 9 centimeters and flow Froude scaled to inlets along the Texas coast. Using surface particle image velocimetry, the entrainment of the secondary structures into the vortex system are shown as well as variations in characteristics such as trajectory, size, vorticity, and circulation for the vortices as they move downstream.


Whilden, K. A., Bryant, D. B. & Socolofsky, S. A. "Effects of secondary vortices on strating jet dipoles at idealized tidal inlets," in preparation for submission to Environmental Fluid Mechanics.