A hydraulic jump is a phenomenon in the science of hydraulics which is frequently observed in open channel flow such as rivers and spillways. When liquid at high velocity discharges into a zone of lower velocity, a rather abrupt rise occurs in the liquid surface. The rapidly flowing liquid is abruptly slowed and increases in height, converting some of the flow's initial kinetic energy into an increase in potential energy, with some energy irreversibly lost through turbulence to heat. In an open channel flow, this manifests as the fast flow rapidly slowing and piling up on top of itself similar to how a shockwave forms.

Figure 1: A raft encountering a hydraulic jump on Canolfan Tryweryn in Wales

It was first observed and documented by Leonardo da Vinci in the 1500s.[1] The mathematics were first described by Giorgio Bidone of Turin University when he published a paper in 1820 called Experiences sur le remou et sur la propagation des ondes.[2]

The phenomenon is dependent upon the initial fluid speed. If the initial speed of the fluid is below the critical speed, then no jump is possible. For initial flow speeds which are not significantly above the critical speed, the transition appears as an undulating wave. As the initial flow speed increases further, the transition becomes more abrupt, until at high enough speeds, the transition front will break and curl back upon itself. When this happens, the jump can be accompanied by violent turbulence, eddying, air entrainment, and surface undulations, or waves.

There are two main manifestations of hydraulic jumps and historically different terminology has been used for each. However, the mechanisms behind them are similar because they are simply variations of each other seen from different frames of reference, and so the physics and analysis techniques can be used for both types.

The different manifestations are:

  • The stationary hydraulic jump – rapidly flowing water transitions in a stationary jump to slowly moving water as shown in Figures 1 and 2.
  • The tidal bore – a wall or undulating wave of water moves upstream against water flowing downstream as shown in Figures 3 and 4. If one considers a frame of reference which moves along with the wave front, then the wave front is stationary relative to the frame and has the same essential behavior as the stationary jump.

A related case is a cascade – a wall or undulating wave of water moves downstream overtaking a shallower downstream flow of water as shown in Figure 5. If considered from a frame of reference which moves with the wave front, this is amenable to the same analysis as a stationary jump.

Figure 2: A common example of a hydraulic jump is the roughly circular stationary wave that forms around the central stream of water. The jump is at the transition between the area where the circle appears still and where the turbulence is visible.

These phenomena are addressed in an extensive literature from a number of technical viewpoints.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Hydraulic Jump is used sometimes in mixing chemicals.[19]

Classes of hydraulic jumps

Figure 3: A tidal bore in Alaska showing a turbulent shock-wave-like front. At this point the water is relatively shallow and the fractional change in elevation is large.

Hydraulic jumps can be seen in both a stationary form, which is known as a "hydraulic jump", and a dynamic or moving form, which is known as a positive surge or "hydraulic jump in translation".[16] They can be described using the same analytic approaches and are simply variants of a single phenomenon.[15][16][18]

Moving hydraulic jump

Figure 4: An undular front on a tidal bore. At this point the water is relatively deep and the fractional change in elevation is small.

A tidal bore is a hydraulic jump which occurs when the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the current.[16] As is true for hydraulic jumps in general, bores take on various forms depending upon the difference in the waterlevel upstream and down, ranging from an undular wavefront to a shock-wave-like wall of water.[9] Figure 3 shows a tidal bore with the characteristics common to shallow upstream water – a large elevation difference is observed. Figure 4 shows a tidal bore with the characteristics common to deep upstream water – a small elevation difference is observed and the wavefront undulates. In both cases the tidal wave moves at the speed characteristic of waves in water of the depth found immediately behind the wave front. A key feature of tidal bores and positive surges is the intense turbulent mixing induced by the passage of the bore front and by the following wave motion.[20]

Figure 5: Series of roll waves moving down a spillway, where they terminate in a stationary hydraulic jump

Another variation of the moving hydraulic jump is the cascade. In the cascade, a series of roll waves or undulating waves of water moves downstream overtaking a shallower downstream flow of water.

A moving hydraulic jump is called a surge. The travel of wave is faster in the upper portion than in the lower portion in case of positive surges

Stationary hydraulic jump


A stationary hydraulic jump is the type most frequently seen on rivers and on engineered features such as outfalls of dams and irrigation works. They occur when a flow of liquid at high velocity discharges into a zone of the river or engineered structure which can only sustain a lower velocity. When this occurs, the water slows in a rather abrupt rise (a step or standing wave) on the liquid surface.[17]

Comparing the characteristics before and after, one finds:

Descriptive Hydraulic Jump Characteristics[7][8][13][15]
Characteristic Before the jump After the jump
fluid speed supercritical (faster than the wave speed) also known as shooting or superundal subcritical also known as tranquil or subundal
fluid height low high
flow typically smooth turbulent typically turbulent flow (rough and choppy)

The other stationary hydraulic jump occurs when a rapid flow encounters a submerged object which throws the water upward. The mathematics behind this form is more complex and will need to take into account the shape of the object and the flow characteristics of the fluid around it.

Analysis of the hydraulic jump on a liquid surface

Naturally occurring hydraulic jump observed on the Upper Spokane Falls north channel

In spite of the apparent complexity of the flow transition, application of simple analytic tools to a two dimensional analysis is effective in providing analytic results which closely parallel both field and laboratory results. Analysis shows:

  • Height of the jump: the relationship between the depths before and after the jump as a function of flow rate[18]
  • Energy loss in the jump
  • Location of the jump on a natural or an engineered structure
  • Character of the jump: undular or abrupt

Height of the jump


The height of the jump is derived from the application of the equations of conservation of mass and momentum.[18] There are several methods of predicting the height of a hydraulic jump.[3][4][5][6][10][15][18][21]

They all reach common conclusions that:

  • The ratio of the water depth before and after the jump depend solely on the ratio of velocity of the water entering the jump to the speed of the wave over-running the moving water.
  • The height of the jump can be many times the initial depth of the water.

For a known flow rate   as shown by the figure below, the approximation that the momentum flux is the same just up- and downstream of the energy principle yields an expression of the energy loss in the hydraulic jump. Hydraulic jumps are commonly used as energy dissipators downstream of dam spillways.

Illustration of behaviour in a hydraulic jump
Applying the continuity principle

In fluid dynamics, the equation of continuity is effectively an equation of conservation of mass. Considering any fixed closed surface within an incompressible moving fluid, the fluid flows into a given volume at some points and flows out at other points along the surface with no net change in mass within the space since the density is constant. In case of a rectangular channel, then the equality of mass flux upstream ( ) and downstream ( ) gives:


with   the fluid density,   and   the depth-averaged flow velocities upstream and downstream, and   and   the corresponding water depths.

Conservation of momentum flux

For a straight prismatic rectangular channel, the conservation of momentum flux across the jump, assuming constant density, can be expressed as:


In rectangular channel, such conservation equation can be further simplified to dimensionless M-y equation form, which is widely used in hydraulic jump analysis in open channel flow.

Jump height in terms of flow Dividing by constant   and introducing the result from continuity gives


which, after some algebra, simplifies to:


where   Here   is the dimensionless Froude number, and relates inertial to gravitational forces in the upstream flow. Solving this quadratic yields:


Negative answers do not yield meaningful physical solutions, so this reduces to:


known as Bélanger equation. The result may be extended to an irregular cross-section.[18]

Burdekin Dam on the Burdekin River in Queensland, Australia showing pronounced hydraulic jump induced by down-stream obstructions and a gradient change

This produces three solution classes:

  • When  , then   (i.e., there is no jump)
  • When  , then   (i.e., there is a negative jump – this can be shown as not conserving energy and is only physically possible if some force were to accelerate the fluid at that point)
  • When  , then   (i.e., there is a positive jump)

This is equivalent to the condition that  . Since the   is the speed of a shallow gravity wave, the condition that   is equivalent to stating that the initial velocity represents supercritical flow (Froude number > 1) while the final velocity represents subcritical flow (Froude number < 1).

Undulations downstream of the jump

Practically this means that water accelerated by large drops can create stronger standing waves (undular bores) in the form of hydraulic jumps as it decelerates at the base of the drop. Such standing waves, when found downstream of a weir or natural rock ledge, can form an extremely dangerous "keeper" with a water wall that "keeps" floating objects (e.g., logs, kayaks, or kayakers) recirculating in the standing wave for extended periods.

Energy dissipation by a hydraulic jump

Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River showing a pronounced hydraulic jump

One of the most important engineering applications of the hydraulic jump is to dissipate energy in channels, dam spillways, and similar structures so that the excess kinetic energy does not damage these structures. The rate of energy dissipation or head loss across a hydraulic jump is a function of the hydraulic jump inflow Froude number and the height of the jump.[15]

The energy loss at a hydraulic jump expressed as a head loss is:


Location of hydraulic jump in a streambed or an engineered structure


In the design of a dam the energy of the fast-flowing stream over a spillway must be partially dissipated to prevent erosion of the streambed downstream of the spillway, which could ultimately lead to failure of the dam. This can be done by arranging for the formation of a hydraulic jump to dissipate energy. To limit damage, this hydraulic jump normally occurs on an apron engineered to withstand hydraulic forces and to prevent local cavitation and other phenomena which accelerate erosion.

In the design of a spillway and apron, the engineers select the point at which a hydraulic jump will occur. Obstructions or slope changes are routinely designed into the apron to force a jump at a specific location. Obstructions are unnecessary, as the slope change alone is normally sufficient. To trigger the hydraulic jump without obstacles, an apron is designed such that the flat slope of the apron retards the rapidly flowing water from the spillway. If the apron slope is insufficient to maintain the original high velocity, a jump will occur.

Supercritical flow down the Cleveland Dam spillway at the head of the Capilano River in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Two methods of designing an induced jump are common:

  • If the downstream flow is restricted by the down-stream channel such that water backs up onto the foot of the spillway, that downstream water level can be used to identify the location of the jump.
  • If the spillway continues to drop for some distance, but the slope changes such that it will no longer support supercritical flow, the depth in the lower subcritical flow region is sufficient to determine the location of the jump.

In both cases, the final depth of the water is determined by the downstream characteristics. The jump will occur if and only if the level of inflowing (supercritical) water level ( ) satisfies the condition:

  = Upstream Froude Number
g = acceleration due to gravity (essentially constant for this case)
h = height of the fluid (  = initial height while   = upstream height)

Air entrainment in hydraulic jumps


The hydraulic jump is characterised by a highly turbulent flow. Macro-scale vortices develop in the jump roller and interact with the free surface leading to air bubble entrainment, splashes and droplets formation in the two-phase flow region.[23][24] The air–water flow is associated with turbulence, which can also lead to sediment transport. The turbulence may be strongly affected by the bubble dynamics. Physically, the mechanisms involved in these processes are complex.

The air entrainment occurs in the form of air bubbles and air packets entrapped at the impingement of the upstream jet flow with the roller. The air packets are broken up in very small air bubbles as they are entrained in the shear region, characterised by large air contents and maximum bubble count rates.[25] Once the entrained bubbles are advected into regions of lesser shear, bubble collisions and coalescence lead to larger air entities that are driven toward the free-surface by a combination of buoyancy and turbulent advection.

Tabular summary of the analytic conclusions

Hydraulic jump characteristics[7][8][13][15]
Amount upstream flow is supercritical (i.e., prejump Froude Number) Ratio of height after to height before jump Descriptive characteristics of jump Fraction of energy dissipated by jump[11]
≤ 1.0 1.0 No jump; flow must be supercritical for jump to occur none
1.0–1.7 1.0–2.0 Standing or undulating wave < 5%
1.7–2.5 2.0–3.1 Weak jump (series of small rollers) 5% – 15%
2.5–4.5 3.1–5.9 Oscillating jump 15% – 45%
4.5–9.0 5.9–12.0 Stable clearly defined well-balanced jump 45% – 70%
> 9.0 > 12.0 Clearly defined, turbulent, strong jump 70% – 85%

NB: the above classification is very rough. Undular hydraulic jumps have been observed with inflow/prejump Froude numbers up to 3.5 to 4.[15][16]

Hydraulic jump variations


A number of variations are amenable to similar analysis:

Shallow fluid hydraulic jumps

The hydraulic jump in a sink

Figure 2 above illustrates an example of a hydraulic jump, often seen in a kitchen sink. Around the place where the tap water hits the sink, a smooth-looking flow pattern will occur. A little further away, a sudden "jump" in the water level will be present. This is a hydraulic jump.

On impingement of a liquid jet normally on to a surface, the liquid spreads radially in a thin film until a point where the film thickness changes abruptly. This abrupt change in liquid film thickness is called a circular hydraulic jump. Most articles in literature assume that the thin film hydraulic jumps are created due to gravity (related to the Froude number). However, a recent scientific study questioned this more than century-old belief.[26] The authors experimentally and theoretically investigated the possibility for kitchen sink hydraulic jumps to be created due to surface tension instead of gravity. To rule out the role of gravity in the formation of a circular hydraulic jump, authors performed experiments on horizontal, vertical and on an inclined surface and showed that irrespective of the orientation of the substrate, for same flow rate and physical properties of the liquid, the initial hydraulic jump happens at the same location. They proposed a model for the phenomenon and found the general criterion for a thin film hydraulic jump to be


where   is the local Weber number and   is the local Froude number. For kitchen sink scale hydraulic jumps, the Froude number remains high, therefore, the effective criteria for the thin film hydraulic jump is  . In other words, a thin film hydraulic jump occurs when the liquid momentum per unit width equals the surface tension of the liquid.[26] However, this model stays heavily contested.[27]

Internal wave hydraulic jumps


Hydraulic jumps in abyssal fan formation


Turbidity currents can result in internal hydraulic jumps (i.e., hydraulic jumps as internal waves in fluids of different density) in abyssal fan formation. The internal hydraulic jumps have been associated with salinity or temperature induced stratification as well as with density differences due to suspended materials. When the slope of the bed (over which the turbidity current flows) flattens, the slower rate of flow is mirrored by increased sediment deposition below the flow, producing a gradual backward slope. Where a hydraulic jump occurs, the signature is an abrupt backward slope, corresponding to the rapid reduction in the flow rate at the point of the jump.[28]

Atmospheric hydraulic jumps


Hydraulic jumps occur in the atmosphere in the air flowing over mountains.[29] A hydraulic jump also occurs at the tropopause interface between the stratosphere and troposphere downwind of the overshooting top of very strong supercell thunderstorms.[30] A related situation is the Morning Glory cloud observed, for example, in Northern Australia, sometimes called an undular jump.[16]

Industrial and recreational applications for hydraulic jumps

Energy dissipation using hydraulic jump



The hydraulic jump is the most commonly used choice of design engineers for energy dissipation below spillways and outlets. A properly designed hydraulic jump can provide for 60-70% energy dissipation of the energy in the basin itself, limiting the damage to structures and the streambed. Even with such efficient energy dissipation, stilling basins must be carefully designed to avoid serious damage due to uplift, vibration, cavitation, and abrasion. An extensive literature has been developed for this type of engineering.[7][8][13][15]

Kayak playing on the transition between the turbulent flow and the recirculation region in a pier wake



While travelling down river, kayaking and canoeing paddlers will often stop and playboat in standing waves and hydraulic jumps. The standing waves and shock fronts of hydraulic jumps make for popular locations for such recreation.

Similarly, kayakers and surfers have been known to ride tidal bores up rivers.

Hydraulic jumps have been used by glider pilots in the Andes and Alps[29] and to ride Morning Glory effects in Australia.[31]

See also

  • Laminar flow – Flow where fluid particles follow smooth paths in layers
  • Shock wave – Propagating disturbance
  • Tidal bore – A water wave traveling upstream a river or narrow bay because of an incoming tide
  • Turbulence – Motion characterized by chaotic changes in pressure and flow velocity
  • Undular bore – Wave disturbance in the Earth's atmosphere which can be seen through unique cloud formations

References and notes

  1. ^ "Household phenomenon observed by Leonardo da Vinci finally explained". Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  2. ^ Cabrera, Enrique (2010). Water Engineering and Management through Time: Learning from History. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0415480024.
  3. ^ a b Douglas, J.F.; Gasiorek, J.M.; Swaffield, J.A. (2001). Fluid Mechanics (4th ed.). Essex: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-582-41476-1.
  4. ^ a b Faber, T.E. (1995). Fluid Dynamics for Physicists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-42969-6.
  5. ^ a b Faulkner, L.L. (2000). Practical Fluid Mechanics for Engineering Applications. Basil, Switzerland: Marcel Dekker AG. ISBN 978-0-8247-9575-7.
  6. ^ a b Fox, R.W.; McDonald, A.T. (1985). Introduction to Fluid Mechanics. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-88598-6.
  7. ^ a b c d Hager, Willi H. (1995). Energy Dissipaters and Hydraulic Jump. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-90-5410-198-7.
  8. ^ a b c d Khatsuria, R.M. (2005). Hydraulics of Spillways and Energy Dissipaters. New York: Marcel Dekker. ISBN 978-0-8247-5789-2.
  9. ^ a b Lighthill, James (1978). Waves in Fluids. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-29233-7.
  10. ^ a b Roberson, J.A.; Crowe, C.T (1990). Engineering Fluid Mechanics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 978-0-395-38124-3.
  11. ^ a b Streeter, V.L.; Wylie, E.B. (1979). Fluid Mechanics. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. ISBN 978-0-07-062232-6.
  12. ^ Vennard, John K. (1963). Elementary Fluid Mechanics (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  13. ^ a b c d Vischer, D.L.; Hager, W.H. (1995). Energy Dissipaters. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema. ISBN 978-0-8247-5789-2.
  14. ^ White, Frank M. (1986). Fluid Mechanics. McGraw Hill, Inc. ISBN 978-0-07-069673-0.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Chanson, H. (2004). The Hydraulic of Open Channel Flow: an Introduction (2nd ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-7506-5978-9.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Chanson, H. (2009). "Current Knowledge In Hydraulic Jumps And Related Phenomena. A Survey of Experimental Results" (PDF). European Journal of Mechanics B. 28 (2): 191–210. Bibcode:2009EJMF...28..191C. doi:10.1016/j.euromechflu.2008.06.004.
  17. ^ a b Murzyn, F.; Chanson, H. (2009). "Free-Surface Fluctuations in Hydraulic Jumps: Experimental Observations". Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science. 33 (7): 1055–1064. doi:10.1016/j.expthermflusci.2009.06.003.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Chanson, Hubert (April 2012). "Momentum Considerations in Hydraulic Jumps and Bores" (PDF). Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering. 138 (4): 382–385. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)IR.1943-4774.0000409.
  19. ^ "Hydraulic Jump -Types and Characteristics of Hydraulic Jump". The Constructor. 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2019-12-26.
  20. ^ Koch, C.; Chanson, H. (2009). "Turbulence Measurements in Positive Surges and Bores" (PDF). Journal of Hydraulic Research. 47 (1): 29–40. doi:10.3826/jhr.2009.2954. S2CID 124743367.
  21. ^ This section outlines the approaches at an overview level only.
  22. ^ "Energy loss in a hydraulic jump". sdsu. Archived from the original on 17 July 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  23. ^ Chanson, H.; Brattberg, T. (2000). "Experimental Study of the Air-Water Shear Flow in a Hydraulic Jump" (PDF). International Journal of Multiphase Flow. 26 (4): 583–607. doi:10.1016/S0301-9322(99)00016-6.
  24. ^ Murzyn, F.; Chanson, H. (2009). "Two-phase gas-liquid flow properties in the hydraulic jump: Review and perspectives". In S. Martin and J.R. Williams (ed.). Multiphase Flow Research (PDF). Hauppauge NY, USA: Nova Science Publishers. Chapter 9, pp. 497–542. ISBN 978-1-60692-448-8.
  25. ^ Chanson, H. (2007). "Bubbly Flow Structure in Hydraulic Jump" (PDF). European Journal of Mechanics B. 26 (3): 367–384. Bibcode:2007EJMF...26..367C. doi:10.1016/j.euromechflu.2006.08.001.
  26. ^ a b Bhagat, R.K.; Jha, N.K.; Linden, P.F.; Wilson, D.I. (2018). "On the origin of the circular hydraulic jump in a thin liquid film". Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 851: R5. arXiv:1712.04255. Bibcode:2018JFM...851R...5B. doi:10.1017/jfm.2018.558. S2CID 119515628.
  27. ^ Duchesne, Alexis; Limat, Laurent (2022-02-28). "Circular hydraulic jumps: where does surface tension matter?". Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 937. arXiv:2112.09538. Bibcode:2022JFM...937R...2D. doi:10.1017/jfm.2022.136. ISSN 0022-1120. S2CID 245329387.
  28. ^ Kostic, Svetlana; Parker, Gary (2006). "The Response of Turbidity Currents to a Canyon-Fan Transition: Internal Hydraulic Jumps and Depositional Signatures". Journal of Hydraulic Research. 44 (5): 631–653. doi:10.1080/00221686.2006.9521713. S2CID 53700725.
  29. ^ a b Clément, Jean Marie (2015). Dancing with the wind. Pivetta Partners. ISBN 978-8890343247.
  30. ^ "Hydraulic jump dynamics above supercell thunderstorms", Science, O'Neill et al, Vol. 373, Issue 6560, September 10, 2021
  31. ^ "Cloud-surfers ride Morning Glory in north Queensland". ABC News. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2018.

Further reading