Baroclinic instability of an initially stratified layer EuHIT Funded Project


  • Article
    Vincze, Miklos; Borcia, Ion; Harlander, Uwe; Le Gal, Patrice
    Fluid Dyn. Res.. 2016, Vol. 48, p. 061414. DOI: 10.1088/0169-5983/48/6/061414
    • Keywords baroclinic instability, double diffusive convection, geophysical fluid dynamics, environmental flows, rotating flows
    • Abstract A water-filled differentially heated rotating annulus with initially prepared stable vertical salinity profiles is studied in the laboratory. Based on twodimensional horizontal particle image velocimetry data and infrared camera visualizations, we describe the appearance and the characteristics of the baroclinic instability in this original configuration. First, we show that when the salinity profile is linear and confined between two non-stratified layers at top and bottom, only two separate shallow fluid layers can be destabilized. These unstable layers appear nearby the top and the bottom of the tank with a stratified motionless zone between them. This laboratory arrangement is thus particularly interesting to model geophysical or astrophysical situations where stratified regions are often juxtaposed to convective ones. Then, for more general but stable initial density profiles, statistical measures are introduced to quantify the extent of the baroclinic instability at given depths and to analyze the connections between this depth-dependence and the vertical salinity profiles. We find that, although the presence of stable stratification generally hinders full-depth overturning, double-diffusive convection can lead to development of multicellular sideways convection in shallow layers and subsequently to a multilayered baroclinic instability. Therefore we conclude that by decreasing the characteristic vertical scale of the flow, stratification may even enhance the formation of cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies (and thus, mixing) in a local sense.