Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Cellular convection with finite amplitude in a rotating fluid

G.  Veronis a1
a1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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When a rotating layer of fluid is heated uniformly from below and cooled from above, the onset of instability is inhibited by the rotation. The first part of this paper treats the stability problem as it was considered by Chandrasekhar (1953), but with particular emphasis on the physical interpretation of the results. It is shown that the time-dependent (overstable) motions occur because they can reduce the stabilizing effect of rotation. It is also shown that the boundary of a steady convection cell is distorted by the rotation in such a way that the wave length of the cell measured along the distorted boundary is equal to the wavelength of the non-rotating cell. This conservation of cellular wavelength is traced to the constancy of horizontal vorticity in the rotating and non-rotating systems. In the finite-amplitude investigation the analysis, which is pivoted about the linear stability problem, indicates that the fluid can become unstable to finite-amplitude disturbances before it becomes unstable to infinitesimal perturbations. The finite-amplitude motions generate a non-linear vorticity which tends to counteract the vorticity generated by the imposed constraint of rotation. Under experimental conditions the two fluids, mercury and air, which are considered in this paper, will not exhibit this finite amplitude instability. However, a fluid with a sufficiently small Prandtl number will become unstable to finite-amplitude perturbations. The special role of viscosity as an energy releasing mechanism in this problem and in the Orr-Sommerfeld problem suggests that the occurrence of a finite-amplitude instability depends on this dual role of viscosity (i.e. as an energy releasing mechanism as well as the more familiar dissipative mechanism). The relative stability criterion developed by Malkus & Veronis (1958) is used to determine the preferred type of cellular motions which can occur in the fluid. This preferred motion is a function of the Prandtl number and the Taylor number. In the case of air it is shown that overstable square cells become preferred in finite amplitude, even though steady convective motions occur at a lower Rayleigh number.

(Published Online March 28 2006)
(Received July 3 1958)