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Grain Reynolds number scale effects in dry granular slides

Kesseler, Matthew; Heller, Valentin; Turnbull, Barbara


Matthew Kesseler


©2020. The Authors. Scale effects are differences in physical behavior that manifest between a large event and a geometrically scaled laboratory model and may cause misleading predictions. This study focuses on scale effects in granular slides, important in the environment and to industry. A versatile 6 m long laboratory setup has been built following Froude similarity to investigate dry granular slides at scales varied by a factor of 4, with grain Reynolds numbers Rein the range of 102 to 103. To provide further comparison, discrete element method simulations have also been conducted. Significant scale effects were identified; the nondimensional surface velocity increased by up to 35%, while the deposit runout distance increased by up to 26% from the smallest to the largest model. These scale effects are strongly correlated with Re, suggesting that interactions between grains and air are primarily responsible for the observed scale effects. This is supported by the discrete element method data, which did not show these scale effects in the absence of air. Furthermore, the particle drag force accounted for a significant part of the observed scale effects. Cauchy number scale effects caused by unscaled particle stiffness resulting in varying dust formation with scale are found to be of secondary importance. Comparisons of the laboratory data to that of other studies and of natural events show that data normalization with Re is an effective method of quantitatively comparing laboratory results to natural events. This upscaling technique can improve hazard assessment in nature and is potentially useful for modeling industrial flows.


Kesseler, M., Heller, V., & Turnbull, B. (2020). Grain Reynolds number scale effects in dry granular slides. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 125(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2019
Online Publication Date Jan 5, 2020
Publication Date Jan 5, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 23, 2020
Journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Print ISSN 2169-9011
Electronic ISSN 2169-9011
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 125
Issue 1
Article Number e2019JF005347
Public URL
Publisher URL


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