Articles | Volume 23, issue 1
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 23, 21–29, 2016

Special issue: Complex environmental and geophysical turbulence

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 23, 21–29, 2016

Research article 28 Jan 2016

Research article | 28 Jan 2016

Complex environmental β-plane turbulence: laboratory experiments with altimetric imaging velocimetry

A. M. Matulka, Y. Zhang, and Y. D. Afanasyev A. M. Matulka et al.
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada

Abstract. Results from the spectral analyses of the flows in two experiments where turbulent flows were generated in a rotating tank with a topographic β-effect are presented. The flows were forced either by heating water from below or supplying fresh water at the top of a saline layer. The flow was essentially barotropic in the first experiment and baroclinic in the second experiment. The gradient of the surface elevation was measured using optical altimetry (altimetric imaging velocimetry). Multiple zonal jets of alternating direction were observed in both experiments. Turbulent cascades of energy exhibit certain universal properties in spite of the different natures of flows in the experiments.

Short summary
In this paper, a turbulent ocean is modelled in the laboratory. The rotation of the Earth around its axis is represented by the rotation of a turntable. Similar to that in the Earth's ocean, the currents in the laboratory "ocean" are created by density effects when the water is heated or made salty. The laboratory currents are measured by a system which is not unlike the satellite altimetry system used by oceanographers to create "topographic" maps of the elevation of the water surface.