Linear internal waves and the control of stratified exchange flows

A.M. Hogg, K.B. Winters, Gregory Ivey

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Internal hydraulic theory is often used to describe idealized bi-directional exchange flow through a constricted channel. This approach is formally applicable to layered flows in which velocity and density are represented by discontinuous functions that are constant within discrete layers. The theory relies on the determination of flow conditions at points of hydraulic control, where long interfacial waves have zero phase speed. In this paper, we consider hydraulic control in continuously stratified exchange flows. Such flows occur, for example, in channels connecting stratified reservoirs and between homogeneous basins when interfacial mixing is significant. Our focus here is on the propagation characteristics of the gravest vertical-mode internal waves within a laterally contracting channel.Two approaches are used to determine the behaviour of waves propagating through a steady, continuously sheared and stratified exchange flow. In the first, waves are mechanically excited at discrete locations within a numerically simulated bi-directional exchange flow and allowed to evolve under linear dynamics. These waves are then tracked in space and time to determine propagation speeds. A second approach, based on the stability theory of parallel shear flows and examination of solutions to a sixth-order eigenvalue problem, is used to interpret the direct excitation experiments. Two types of gravest mode eigensolutions are identified: vorticity modes, with eigenfunction maxima centred above and below the region of maximum density gradient, and density modes with maxima centred on the strongly stratified layer. Density modes have phase speeds that change sign within the channel and are analogous to the interfacial waves in hydraulic theory. Vorticity modes have finite propagation speed throughout the channel but undergo a transition in form: upwind of the transition point the vorticity mode is trapped in one layer. It is argued that modes trapped in one layer are not capable of communicating interfacial information, and therefore that the transition points are analogous to control points. The location of transition points are identified and used to generalize the notion of hydraulic control in continuously stratified flows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-375
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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