Numerical study of shear stress distribution at sand ripple surface in wind tunnel flow

Nitsan Bar, Tov Elperin, Itzhak Katra, Hezi Yizhaq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mechanism responsible for the formation and sustainability of sand ripples sheared by a uniform air flow is not well understood, despite the significant attention that has been given to it ever since the pioneering studies of Bagnold (1941). In this study we explore ANSYS Fluent simulations of fine-scale turbulent flow structure in the vicinity of 2D sand ripples with particular emphasis on shear stress distribution at the sand bed. The flow parameters in the simulations were pertinent to the wind tunnel experiments for studying sand ripples formation. The simulations show that the shear stress at the crest is about 2.5 times larger than the shear stress at the trough and that in most of the simulations a separation bubble has been developed at the lee slope. In contrast to wind tunnel experiments the simulations show that ripples will be flattened at wind speed of 9 m/s as shear stress at the ripples surface exceeds the fluid threshold. This discrepancy between the calculations and real wind tunnel measurements are due to the important role of the saltation layer on the decrease of the shear stress at the surface. Without this effect ripples cannot grow higher and will be diminished at quite moderate winds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-130
Number of pages6
JournalAeolian Research
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • ANSYS Fluent
  • Fluid threshold velocity
  • Saltation layer
  • Sand ripples
  • Separation bubble
  • Wind tunnel
  • Wind velocity

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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