Studies of Thermal Convection in a Rotating Cylinder with Some Implications for Large-Scale Atmospheric Motions

  • Dave Fultz
  • Robert R. Long
  • George V. Owens
  • Walter Bohan
  • Robert Kaylor
  • Joyce Weil
Part of the Meteorological Monographs book series (METEOR, volume 4)


The results of several years of research in atmospheric models are presented. A brief historical summary covers the important experimental work of early investigators in this field as well as the immediate background of the work at Chicago. The experiments are conducted in rotating cylindrical containers with various arrangements of the heat sources and sinks. A short description of the experimental apparatus and of several of the more unusual or important techniques which have evolved is presented.

To facilitate comparison to the prototype, the pertinent equations are developed in nondimensional form and the modeling criteria investigated in terms of the appropriate nondimensional parameters. Experience indicates that the most important of the controlled variables in the experiments are the rotation and heating rates. A nondimensional parameter is defined (the Rossby number, R0*) whose value roughly determines the types of motions observed.

Two principal convective regimes are found, corresponding to high and low values of the Rossby number. With a high Rossby number (Hadley regime), the motion is symmetric with the heat transport accomplished by ageostrophic components of the flow. At low Rossby numbers (Rossby regime), a wave regime is established, characterized by geostrophic heat transport. Empirical criteria for wave number changes and transition from symmetric to wave regimes in a rotating annulus are also presented.


Rossby Number Cold Source Bunsen Burner Eddy Transport Angular Momentum Balance 
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Copyright information

© American Meteorological Society 1959

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Fultz
    • 1
  • Robert R. Long
    • 1
    • 2
  • George V. Owens
    • 1
    • 3
  • Walter Bohan
    • 1
    • 4
  • Robert Kaylor
    • 1
  • Joyce Weil
    • 1
  1. 1.Hydrodynamics Laboratory, Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins UniversityUSA
  3. 3.North American Aircraft Co.Los AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Cook Research LaboratoriesChicagoUSA

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