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Abstract
The fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans are to a large extent controlled by the slow evolution of a scalar field called ‘potential vorticity’, with relatively fast motions such as inertiagravity waves playing only a minor role. This state of affairs is commonly referred to as ‘balance’. Potential vorticity (PV) is a special scalar field which is materially conserved in the absence of diabatic effects and dissipation, effects which are generally weak in the atmosphere and oceans. Moreover, in a balanced flow, PV induces the entire fluid motion and its thermodynamic structure (Hoskins et al. 1985). While exact balance is generally not achievable, it is now well established that balance holds to a high degree of accuracy in rapidly rotating and strongly stratified flows. Such flows are characterised by both a small Rossby number, Ro ≡ ζmax/f, and a small
Froude number, Fr ≡ .hmax/N, where ζ and .h are the relative vertical and horizontal vorticity components, while f and N are the Coriolis and buoyancy frequencies. In fact, balance can even be a good approximation when Fr < ∼
Ro ∼ O(1).
In this study, we examine how balance depends specifically on Prandtl’s ratio, f/N, in unforced freelyevolving turbulence. We examine a wide variety of turbulent flows, at a mature and complex stage of their evolution, making use of the fully nonhydrostatic equations under the Boussinesq and incompressible approximations. We perform numerical simulations at exceptionally high resolution in order to carefully assess the degree to which balance holds, and to determine when it breaks down. For this purpose, it proves most useful to employ an invariant, PVbased Rossby number ε, together with f/N. For a given ε, our key finding is that — for at least tens of characteristic vortex rotation
periods — the flow is insensitive to f/N for all values for which the flow remains statically stable (typically f/N < ∼1). Only the vertical velocity varies in proportion to f/N, in line with quasigeostrophic scaling for which Fr2 ≪ Ro ≪
1. We also find that as ε increases toward unity, the maximum f/N attainable decreases toward 0. No statically stable flows occur for ε > ∼ 1. For all stable flows, balance is found to hold to a remarkably high degree: as measured by an energy norm, imbalance never exceeds more than a few percent of the balance, even in flows where Ro > 1. The vertical velocity w remains a tiny fraction of the horizontal velocity uh, even when w is dominantly balanced. Finally, typical vertical to horizontal scale ratios H/L remain close to f/N, as found previously
in quasigeostrophic turbulence for which Fr ∼ Ro ≪ 1.
Froude number, Fr ≡ .hmax/N, where ζ and .h are the relative vertical and horizontal vorticity components, while f and N are the Coriolis and buoyancy frequencies. In fact, balance can even be a good approximation when Fr < ∼
Ro ∼ O(1).
In this study, we examine how balance depends specifically on Prandtl’s ratio, f/N, in unforced freelyevolving turbulence. We examine a wide variety of turbulent flows, at a mature and complex stage of their evolution, making use of the fully nonhydrostatic equations under the Boussinesq and incompressible approximations. We perform numerical simulations at exceptionally high resolution in order to carefully assess the degree to which balance holds, and to determine when it breaks down. For this purpose, it proves most useful to employ an invariant, PVbased Rossby number ε, together with f/N. For a given ε, our key finding is that — for at least tens of characteristic vortex rotation
periods — the flow is insensitive to f/N for all values for which the flow remains statically stable (typically f/N < ∼1). Only the vertical velocity varies in proportion to f/N, in line with quasigeostrophic scaling for which Fr2 ≪ Ro ≪
1. We also find that as ε increases toward unity, the maximum f/N attainable decreases toward 0. No statically stable flows occur for ε > ∼ 1. For all stable flows, balance is found to hold to a remarkably high degree: as measured by an energy norm, imbalance never exceeds more than a few percent of the balance, even in flows where Ro > 1. The vertical velocity w remains a tiny fraction of the horizontal velocity uh, even when w is dominantly balanced. Finally, typical vertical to horizontal scale ratios H/L remain close to f/N, as found previously
in quasigeostrophic turbulence for which Fr ∼ Ro ≪ 1.
Original language  English 

Pages (fromto)  569590 
Journal  Journal of Fluid Mechanics 
Volume  777 
DOIs  
Publication status  Published  21 Jul 2015 
Keywords
 Geophysical and geological flows
 Geostrophic turbulence
 Vortex dynamics
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 1 Finished

Geophysical Vortices: The Structure, stability and interaction of geophysical vortices
Reinaud, J. N. (PI), Dritschel, D. G. (CoI) & Scott, R. K. (CoI)
5/01/10 → 1/11/13
Project: Standard