Experimental study of convection in a rotating tangent cylinder

Kelig Aujogue, Alban Potherat, Binod Sreenivasan, Francois Debray

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    This paper experimentally investigates the convection in a rapidly rotating tangent $cylinder (TC), for Ekman numbers down to $E=3.36×10^{−6}$. The apparatus consists of a hemispherical fluid vessel heated in its centre by a protruding heating element of cylindrical shape. The resulting convection that develops above the heater, i.e. within the TC, is shown to set in for critical Rayleigh numbers and wavenumbers respectively scaling as $Ra_c∼E^{−4/3}$ and $a_c∼E^{−1/3} with the Ekman
    number E. Although exhibiting the same exponents as for plane rotating convection, these laws reflect much larger convective plumes at onset. The structure and dynamics of supercritical plumes are in fact closer to those found in solid rotating cylinders heated from below, suggesting that the confinement within the TC induced by the Taylor–Proudman constraint influences convection in a similar way as solid walls would do. There is a further similarity in that the critical modes in the TC all exhibit a slow retrograde precession at onset. In supercritical regimes, the precession evolves into a thermal wind with a complex structure featuring retrograde rotation at high latitude and either
    prograde or retrograde rotation at low latitude (close to the heater), depending on the criticality and the Ekman number. The intensity of the thermal wind measured by the Rossby number $Ro$ scales as $Ro'5.33(Ra^∗_q)^{0.51}$ with the Rayleigh number based on the heat flux $Ra^∗_q ∈[10^{−9}, 10^{−6}]$. This scaling is in agreement with heuristic predictions and previous experiments where the thermal wind is determined by the azimuthal curl of the balance between the Coriolis force and buoyancy. Within the range $Ra∈[2×10^7, 10^9]$ which we explored, we also observe a transition in the heat transfer through the TC from a diffusivity-free regime where $Nu~0.38 E^2 Ra^{1.58}$ to a
    rotation-independent regime where $Nu=0.2Ra^{0.33}.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)355-381
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2018


    • convection
    • geodynamo
    • rotating flows


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