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The influence of surface topography on rotating convection

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrew Soward


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Busse's annulus is considered as a model of thermal convection inside the Earth's liquid core. The conventional tilted base and top are modified by azimuthal sinusoidal corrugations so that the effects of surface topography can be investigated. The annulus rotates rapidly about its axis of symmetry with gravity directed radially inwards towards the rotation axis. An unstable radial temperature gradient is maintained and the resulting Boussinesq convection is considered at small Ekman number. Since the corrugations on the boundaries cause the geostrophic contours to be no longer circular, strong geostrophic flows may be driven by buoyancy forces and damped by Ekman suction. When the bumps are sufficiently large, instability of the static state is dominated by steady geostrophic flow with the convection pattern locked to the bumps. As the bump size is decreased, oscillatory geostrophic flow is possible but the preferred mode is modulated on a long azimuthal length scale and propagates as a wave eastwards. This mode only exists in the presence of bumps and is not to be confused with the thermal Rossby waves which are eventually preferred as the bump height tends to zero. Like thermal Rossby waves, the new modes prefer to occupy the longest available radial length scale. In this long-length-scale limit, two finite-amplitude states characterized by uniform geostrophic flows can be determined. The small-amplitude state resembles Or & Busse's (1987) mean flow instability. On losing stability the solution jumps to the more robust large-amplitude state. Eventually, for sufficiently large Rayleigh number and bump height, it becomes unstable to a long-azimuthal-length-scale travelling wave. The ensuing finite-amplitude wave and the mean flow, upon which it rides, are characterized by a geostrophic flow, which is everywhere westward.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bell PI, Soward AM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Year: 1996

Volume: 313

Pages: 147-180

Print publication date: 25/04/1996

Online publication date: 26/04/2006

ISSN (print): 0022-1120

ISSN (electronic): 1469-7645

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0022112096002169


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