The break-up of Ekman theory in a flow subjected to background rotation and driven by a non-conservative body force

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Abstract

We present an experimental/numerical study of a dipolar flow structure in a shallow layer of electrolyte driven by electromagnetic forcing and subjected to background rotation. The aim of this study is to determine the influence of a non-conservative body force on the range of applicability of the classical Ekman boundary layer theory in rapidly rotating systems. To address this question, we study the response of the flow to the three control parameters: the magnitude of the forcing, the rotation rate of the system, and the shallowness of the layer. This response is quantified taking into account the magnitude of the flow velocity (represented by the Reynolds number), the symmetry between both vortex cores, and the vertical profile of the horizontal velocity. As in the case without background rotation, the response of the flow exhibits two scaling regimes (a linear and a nonlinear regime) in which the flow exhibits different vertical profiles of velocity. The transition between the two regimes occurs when the convective acceleration becomes of the same order as the viscous damping. This suggests that the applicability of the Ekman theory depends on the existence of a balance between the forcing and the damping due to the Ekman layers and does not depend solely on the value of the Rossby number as for decaying flows. On the other hand, the cyclone/anticyclone asymmetry is governed exclusively by the Rossby number.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116602
Pages (from-to)116602-1/15
Number of pages15
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Volume24
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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