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Variable and conflicting shear stress estimates inside a boundary layer with sediment transport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Early online date14 Oct 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Oct 2015


King's Authors


This paper presents a comparison between two methods for estimating shear stress in an atmospheric internal boundary layer over a beach surface under optimum conditions, using wind velocities measured synchronously at 13 heights over a 1.7 m vertical array using ultrasonic anemometry. The Reynolds decomposition technique determines at-a-point shear stresses at each measurement height, while the Law-of-the-Wall yields a single boundary layer estimate based on fitting a logarithmic velocity profile through the array data.
Analysis reveals significant inconsistencies between estimates derived from the two methods, on both a whole-event basis and as time-series. Despite a near-perfect fit of the Law-of-the-Wall, the point estimates of Reynolds shear stress vary greatly between heights, calling into question the assumed presence of a constant stress layer. A comparison with simultaneously measured sediment
transport finds no relationship between transport activity and the discrepancies in shear stress estimates. Results do show, however, that Reynolds shear stress measured nearer the bed exhibits slightly better correlation with sand transport rate. The findings serve as a major cautionary message to the interpretation and application of single-height measurements of Reynolds shear stress and their equivalence to Law-of-the-Wall derived estimates, and these concerns apply widely to boundary layer flows in general.

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