Inertia-gravity-wave scattering by three-dimensional geostrophic turbulence

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Abstract

In rotating stratified flows including in the atmosphere and ocean, inertia-gravity waves (IGWs) often coexist with a geostrophically balanced turbulent flow. Advection and refraction by this flow lead to wave scattering, redistributing IGW energy in the position--wavenumber phase space. We give a detailed description of this process by deriving a kinetic equation governing the evolution of the IGW phase-space energy density. The derivation relies on the smallness of the Rossby number characterising the geostrophic flow, which is treated as a random field with known statistics, and makes no assumption of spatial scale separation.
The kinetic equation describes energy transfers that are restricted to IGWs with the same frequency, as a result of the timescale separation between waves and flow. We formulate the kinetic equation on the constant-frequency surface -- a double cone in wavenumber space -- using polar spherical coordinates, and we examine the form of the two scattering cross sections involved, which quantify energy transfers between IGWs with, respectively, the same and opposite directions of vertical propagation. The kinetic equation captures both the horizontal isotropisation and the cascade of energy across scales that result from scattering. We focus our attention on the latter to assess the predictions of the kinetic equation against direct simulations of the three-dimensional Boussinesq equations, finding good agreement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Feb 2021

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