On the Dynamics of Starting Plumes

27 Feb 2018

We explore the dynamics of starting plumes by analysis of a series of new small-scale laboratory experiments combined with a theoretical model for mass, momentum, and buoyancy conservation. We find that the head of the plume ascends with a speed which is approximately 0.6 times the characteristic speed of the fluid in the following steady plume, in accord with Turner (1962), and so the fluid released from the source eventually catches the head of the flow. On reaching the top of the plume it recirculates and mixes in the plume head. We estimate that approximately 0.61 ± 0.04 of the total buoyancy released from the source accumulates in the plume head, with the remainder in the following steady plume. Using measurements of the volume of the head, we estimate that a fraction 0.16 ± 0.08 of the volume of the head is entrained directly from the ambient, with the remainder of the fluid in the head being supplied by the following steady plume. These results imply that the buoyancy force exerted on the plume head plus the momentum flux supplied by the following plume exceeds the rate of change of momentum of the plume head even including the added-mass of the plume head. We propose that the difference is associated with a drag force resulting from the displacement of ambient fluid around the plume head. Using our experimental data, we estimate that the drag coefficient $C_d$ has a value 4.2 ± 1.4, with the range in values associated with the uncertainty in our estimate of entrainment of fluid directly into the plume head. As a test, the proposed model is shown to provide a reasonable description of a starting plume rising through a stratified environment in the region below the maximum height of rise of the associated steady plume, although above this point, the shape of the plume head changes and the model breaks down.