Transition between advection and inertial wave propagation in rotating turbulence

Jonathan Brons, Peter J. Thomas, Alban Potherat

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    1 Citation (Scopus)
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    In turbulent flows subject to strong background rotation, the advective mechanisms of turbulence are superseded by the propagation of inertial waves, as the effects of rotation become dominant. While this mechanism has been identified experimentally (Dickinson & Long, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 126, 1983, pp. 315-333; Davidson, Staplehurst & Dalziel, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 557, 2006, pp. 135-144; Staplehurst, Davidson & Dalziel, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 598, 2008, pp. 81-105; Kolvin et al.Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 102, 2009, 014503), the conditions of the transition between the two mechanisms are less clear. We tackle this question experimentally by tracking the turbulent front away from a solid wall where jets enter an otherwise quiescent fluid. Without background rotation, this apparatus generates a turbulent front whose displacement recovers the law classically obtained with an oscillating grid (Dickinson & Long, Phys. Fluids, vol. 21 (10), 1978, pp. 1698-1701) and we further establish the scale independence of the associated transport mechanism. When the apparatus is rotating at a constant velocity perpendicular to the wall where fluid is injected, not only does the turbulent front become mainly transported by inertial waves, but advection itself is suppressed because of the local deficit of momentum incurred by the propagation of these waves. Scale-by-scale analysis of the displacement of the turbulent front reveals that the transition between advection and propagation is local both in space and spectrally, and takes place when the Rossby number based on the considered scale is of order unity, or equivalently, when the scale-dependent group velocity of inertial waves matched the local advection velocity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberA22
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
    Early online date15 Jan 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • rotating flows
    • waves in rotating fluids
    • rotating turbulence
    • Rotating flows
    • Waves in rotating fluids
    • Rotating turbulence

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Condensed Matter Physics
    • Mechanics of Materials
    • Mechanical Engineering


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