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The evolution of grid-generated turbulence in a stably stratified fluid

  • E. C. Itsweire (a1), K. N. Helland (a1) and C. W. Van Atta (a1)


The spatial decay and structural evolution of grid-generated turbulence under the effect of buoyancy was studied in a ten-layer, salt-stratified water channel. The various density gradients were chosen such that the initial overturning turbulent scale was slightly smaller than any of the respective buoyancy scales. The observed general evolution of the flow from homogeneous turbulence to a composite of fossil turbulence or quasi-two-dimensional turbulence and internal wavefield is in good agreement with the predictions of Gibson (1980) and the lengthscale model of Stillinger, Helland & Van Atta (1983). The effect of the initial size of the turbulent lengthscale compared with the buoyancy scale on the decay and evolution of the turbulence is investigated and the observed influence on the rate of decay of both longitudinal and vertical velocity fluctuations pointed out by Van Atta, Helland & Itsweire (1984) is shown to be related to the magnitude of the initial internal wavefield at the grid. An attempt is made to remove the wave-component kinetic energy from the vertical-velocity-fluctuation data of Stillinger, Helland & Van Atta (1983) in order to obtain the true decay of the turbulent fluctuations. The evolution of the resulting fluctuations is similar to that of the present large-grid data and several towed-grid experiments. The rate of destruction of the density fluctuations (active-scalar dissipation rate) is estimated from the evolution equation for the potential energy, and the deduced Cox numbers are compared with those obtained from oceanic microstructure measurements. The classical Kolmogorov and Batchelor scalings appear to collapse the velocity and density spectra better than the buoyancy scaling proposed by Gargett, Osborn & Nasmyth (1984). The rise of the velocity spectra at low wavenumbers found by Stillinger, Helland & Van Atta (1983) is shown to be related to internal waves.



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The evolution of grid-generated turbulence in a stably stratified fluid

  • E. C. Itsweire (a1), K. N. Helland (a1) and C. W. Van Atta (a1)


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