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A study of streamwise vortex structure in a stratified shear layer

  • David G. Schowalter (a1) (a2), Charles W. Van Van Atta (a1) and Juan C. Lasheras (a1)


The existence of an organized streamwise vortical structure, which is superimposed on the well known coherent spanwise vorticity in nominally two-dimensional free shear layers, has been studied extensively. In the presence of stratification, however, buoyancy forces contribute to an additional mechanism for the generation of streamwise vorticity. As the spanwise vorticity layer rolls up and pulls high-density fluid above low-density fluid, a local instability results. The purpose of the current investigation is to force the three-dimensional instability in the stratified shear layer. In this manner, we experimentally observe the effect of buoyancy on the streamwise vortex tube evolution, the evolution of the buoyancy-induced instability, and the interaction between these two vortical structures. A simple numerical model is proposed which captures the relevant physics of the flow evolution. It is found that, depending on the location, streamwise vortices resulting from vortex stretching may be weakened or enhanced by the stratification. Buoyancy-induced vortex structures are shown to form where the unstable part of the interface is tilted by the streamwise vortex tubes. These vortices strengthen initially, then weaken downstream, the timescale for this process depending upon the degree of stratification. For initial Richardson numbers larger than about 0.03, the baroclinically weakened vortex tubes eventually disappear as the flow evolves downstream and the baroclinically generated vortices dominate the three-dimensional flow structure.



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A study of streamwise vortex structure in a stratified shear layer

  • David G. Schowalter (a1) (a2), Charles W. Van Van Atta (a1) and Juan C. Lasheras (a1)


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