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Supercritical flow

A supercritical flow is when the flow velocity is larger than the wave velocity. The analogous condition in gas dynamics is supersonic.

Information travels at the wave velocity. This is the velocity at which waves travel outwards from a pebble thrown into a lake. The flow velocity is the velocity a leaf in the flow travels at. If a pebble is thrown into a supercritcal flow then the ripples will all move down stream whereas in a subcritical flow some would travel up stream and some would travel down stream. It is only in supercritical flows that hydraulic jumps (bores) can occur. In fluid dynamics, the change from one behaviour to the other is often described by a dimensionless quantity, where the transition occurs whenever this number becomes less or more than one. One of these numbers is the Froude number:

  • Fr \ \stackrel{\mathrm{def}}{=}\   \frac{U}{\sqrt{gh}},


  • U = velocity of the flow
  • g = acceleration due to gravity (9.81 m/s² or 32.2 ft/s²)
  • h = depth of flow relative to the channel bottom

If Fr < 1, we call the flow subcritical; if Fr > 1, we call the flow supercritical.

See also

  • Supersonic
  • Hypersonic
  • Ocean surface wave
  • Tsunami
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Supercritical_flow". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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