History effects in the sedimentation of light aerosols in turbulence: the case of marine snow

Research paper by Ksenia Guseva, Anton Daitche, Ulrike Feudel, Tamás Tél

Indexed on: 05 Jan '16Published on: 05 Jan '16Published in: Physics - Fluid Dynamics


We analyze the effect of the Basset history force on the sedimentation of nearly neutrally buoyant particles, exemplified by marine snow, in a three-dimensional turbulent flow. Particles are characterized by Stokes numbers much smaller than unity, and still water settling velocities, measured in units of the Kolmogorov velocity, of order one. The presence of the history force in the Maxey-Riley equation leads to individual trajectories which differ strongly from the dynamics of both inertial particles without this force, and ideal settling tracers. When considering, however, a large ensemble of particles, the statistical properties of all three dynamics become more similar. The main effect of the history force is a rather slow, power-law type convergence to an asymptotic settling velocity of the center of mass, which is found numerically to be the settling velocity in still fluid. The spatial extension of the ensemble grows diffusively after an initial ballistic growth lasting up to ca. one large eddy turnover time. We demonstrate that the settling of the center of mass for such light aggregates is best approximated by the settling dynamics in still fluid found with the history force, on top of which fluctuations appear which follow very closely those of the turbulent velocity field.