Trapped Instability and Vortex Formation by an Unstable Coastal Current

    2011, Volume 16, Number 6, pp.  577-601

    Author(s): Duarte R., Carton X., Capet X., Cherubin L.

    This paper addresses the instability of a two-layer coastal current in a quasigeostrophic model; the potential vorticity (PV) structure of this current consists in two uniform cores, located at different depths, with finite width and horizontally shifted. This shift allows both barotropic and baroclinic instability for this current. The PV cores can be like-signed or opposite-signed, leading to their vertical alignment or to their hetonic coupling. These two aspects are novel compared to previous studies. For narrow vorticity cores, short waves dominate, associated with barotropic instability; for wider cores, longer waves are more unstable and are associated with baroclinic processes. Numerical experiments were performed on the $f$−plane with a finite-difference model. When both cores have like-signed PV, trapped instability develops during the nonlinear evolution: vertical alignment of the structures is observed. For narrow cores, short wave breaking occurs close to the coast; for wider cores, substantial turbulence results from the entrainment of ambient fluid into the coastal jet. When the two cores have opposite-signed PV, the nonlinear regimes range from short wave breaking to the ejection of dipoles or tripoles, via a regime of dipole oscillation near the wall. The Fourier analysis of the perturbed flow is appropriate to distinguish the regimes of short wave breaking, of dipole formation, and of turbulence, but not the differences between regimes involving only vortex pairs. To explain more precisely the regimes where two vortices (and their wall images) interact, a point vortex model is appropriate.
    Keywords: stability and instability of geophysical and astrophysical flows, vortex flows, rotating fluids, stability problems, applications to physics
    Citation: Duarte R., Carton X., Capet X., Cherubin L., Trapped Instability and Vortex Formation by an Unstable Coastal Current, Regular and Chaotic Dynamics, 2011, Volume 16, Number 6, pp. 577-601

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