Turbulence and waves in a rotating tank
A turbulent field is produced with an oscillating grid in a deep, rotating tank. Near the grid, the Rossby number is kept large, 0(3-33), and the turbulence is locally unaffected by rotation. Away from the grid, the scale of the turbulence increases, the r.m.s. turbulent velocity decreases, and rotation becomes increasingly important. The flow field changes dramatically at a local Rossby number of about 0.20, and thereafter remains independent of depth. The flow consists of concentrated vortices having axes approximately parallel to the rotation axis, and extending throughout the depth of the fluid above the turbulent Ekman layer. The number of vortices per unit area is a function of the grid Rossby number. The local vorticity within cores can be a factor of 50 larger than the tank vorticity 2Ω. The total relative circulation contained in the vortices remains, however, a small fraction of the tank circulation.
The concentrated vortex cores support waves consisting of helical distortions, which travel along the axes of individual vortices. Isolated, travelling waves seem well-described by the vortex-soliton theory of Hasimoto (1972). The nonlinear waves transport mass, momentum and energy from the vigorously turbulent region near the grid to the rotation-dominated flow above. Interactions between waves, which are frequent occurrences, almost always result in a local breakdown of the vortex core, and small-scale turbulence production. Usually the portions of broken core reform within ½−1 rotation periods, but occasionally cores are destroyed and reformed on a much longer timescale.(Published Online April 20 2006)
(Received December 11 1981)
(Revised May 24 1982)
p1 Present address: Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90007.