WIT Press

Stability Of Stratified Spin-up Flows


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S. A. Smirnov


The stability of stratified rotating flows is investigated by means of laboratory experiments in axisymmetric cylindrical and annular containers with both horizontal and sloping bottoms. The baroclinic current is initiated via incremental spin-up/down of a linearly stratified fluid by an abrupt change in the rotation rate of the system (from Ω ± ∆Ω to Ω). The flow stability depends on the characteristic values of the Rossby number, ε = ∆Ω/ Ω, and the Burger number, Bu = NH/fR, where f = 2 Ω is the Coriolis parameter, R is the characteristic horizontal length scale of the flow, H is the depth of the fluid layer, and N is the buoyancy frequency. Particular attention is given to the nonlinear flow regime (finite Rossby numbers). It is found that axisymmetric spin-up current loses its azimuthal symmetry when Bu < 1, and breaks into a system of large-scale cyclonic and anticyclonic vortices with a predominantly vertical axis of rotation. The eddies always develop at the density fronts formed by the corner regions adjacent to the sidewalls of the container. The corner regions reach a quasi-equilibrium state at the characteristic time scale E-1/2 Ω-1 (where E = ν/ ΩH2 is the Ekman number and ν is the kinematic viscosity), which is also observed for homogenous fluids. It is also shown that the stability of the spin-up flow is affected by the bottom slope. In the presence of the latter the bottom boundary layer experiences a qualitatively different behavior. While the density field demonstrates a smooth monotonic behavior in the case of stratified spin-up at all times, it reveals high-frequency fluctuations in the spin-down case, suggesting the turbulent nature of the bottom boundary layer. The results of observations may be found useful in interpreting in-situ measurements of upwelling- and downwelling-favorable oceanic currents in the littoral zones. Keywords: geophysical systems, rotating stratified flows, spin-up, flow instability.


geophysical systems, rotating stratified flows, spin-up, flow instability.