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The theory of quasi-geostrophic von Kármán vortex streets in two-layer fluids on a beta-plane

  • VLADIMIR M. GRYANIK (a1) (a2), HARTMUT BORTH (a1) and DIRK OLBERS (a1)

Abstract

In this study self-organized periodic coherent vortex structures arising in geophysical turbulent flows at low Rossby number are investigated by developing a conceptual model based on an analytical theory of von Kármán vortex streets affected by stratification and differential rotation. In the framework of a quasi-geostrophic (QG) two-layer beta-plane model vortex streets with three different types of vertical structures (barotropic, upper layer and hetonic) are analysed using the point vortex approximation. The streets are found to be exact solutions of the potential vorticity equation and to be characterized by four non-dimensional parameters. Von Kármán streets are semi-localized solutions which form a bridge between vortex pairs (limit of symmetric dilute streets) and two parallel vortex sheets (limit of dense streets). On the beta-plane QG von Kármán streets can only move to the east, i.e. with a speed outside the range of speeds of Rossby waves, so that a dynamical asymmetry in the zonal direction is introduced. A complete classification on a diagram of states shows that critical bounds exist in the parameter space, prescribing for example a maximum distance between vortex rows beyond which no QG vortex streets can be found. Typically a fast and a slow vortex street with different flow structures are found in the region of existence. As a function of distance between vortex rows baroclinic QG vortex streets show a characteristic non-monotonic speed behaviour at scales of the order of the baroclinic Rossby radius. A wide region of possible existence of QG von Kármán streets is found in atmospheric, oceanic and planetary conditions as well as in rotating tank experiments. The theory can be applied to describe the coherent part of turbulent baroclinic intermittent zonal jet-like and frontal flows and provides a scaling for such flows.

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The theory of quasi-geostrophic von Kármán vortex streets in two-layer fluids on a beta-plane

  • VLADIMIR M. GRYANIK (a1) (a2), HARTMUT BORTH (a1) and DIRK OLBERS (a1)

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