Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Decay laws, anisotropy and cyclone–anticyclone asymmetry in decaying rotating turbulence


a1 Laboratoire FAST, Université Paris-Sud 11, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, CNRS, Bâtiment 502, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France

a2 Coriolis/LEGI, 21 avenue des Martyrs, F-38000 Grenoble, France


The effect of a background rotation on the decay of grid-generated turbulence is investigated from experiments using the large-scale ‘Coriolis’ rotating platform. A first transition occurs at 0.4 tank rotation (instantaneous Rossby number Ro ≃ 0.25), characterized by a t−6/5t−3/5 transition of the energy-decay law. After this transition, anisotropy develops in the form of vertical layers, where the initial vertical velocity fluctuations remain trapped. The vertical vorticity field develops a cyclone–anticyclone asymmetry, reproducing the growth law of the vorticity skewness, Sω(t) ≃ (Ωt)0.7, reported by Morize, Moisy & Rabaud (Phys. Fluids, vol. 17 (9), 2005, 095105). A second transition is observed at larger time, characterized by a return to vorticity symmetry. In this regime, the layers of nearly constant vertical velocity become thinner as they are advected and stretched by the large-scale horizontal flow, and eventually become unstable. The present results indicate that the shear instability of the vertical layers contributes significantly to the re-symmetrization of the vertical vorticity at large time, by re-injecting vorticity fluctuations of random sign at small scales. These results emphasize the importance of the nature of the initial conditions in the decay of rotating turbulence.

(Received September 04 2009)

(Revised July 09 2010)

(Accepted July 10 2010)

(Online publication October 12 2010)

Key words:

  • rotating flows;
  • rotating turbulence;
  • wave–turbulence interactions


c1 Email address for correspondence: