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Measurements of layer depth during baroclinic instability in a two-layer flow


This study investigates the baroclinic instability of a two-layer rotating fluid system. The instability is generated by releasing a cylinder of buoyant fluid at the surface of ambient fluid. The buoyant fluid is dyed so that its depth may be determined from its optical thickness. The system first adjusts until the horizontal density gradient is balanced by a flow along the front, and the adjusted state is then unstable to azimuthal waves. Contours of constant upper layer depth are examined, and the perturbation at each azimuthal wavenumber is determined. The initial wavenumber is well modelled by simple quasi-geostrophic theory. There is a clear high wavenumber cutoff, and a transfer of energy to larger scales with time.

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Holford, J.M., Dalziel, S.B. Measurements of layer depth during baroclinic instability in a two-layer flow. Appl. Sci. Res. 56, 191–207 (1996).

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Key words

  • baroclinic instability
  • nonlinear evolution
  • optical thickness
  • Fourier descriptors