Nonlinear dynamics over rough topography: homogeneous and stratified quasi-geostrophic theory

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Abstract

The weakly nonlinear dynamics of quasi-geostrophic flows over a one-dimensional, periodic or random, small-scale topography is investigated using an asymptotic approach. Averaged (or homogenized) evolution equations which account for the flow-topography interaction are derived for both homogeneous and continuously stratified quasi-geostrophic fluids. The scaling assumptions are detailed in each case; for stratified fluids, they imply that the direct influence of the topography is confined within a thin bottom boundary layer, so that it is through a new bottom boundary condition that the topography affects the large-scale flow. For both homogeneous and stratified fluids, a single scalar function entirely encapsulates the properties of the topography that are relevant to the large-scale flow: it is the correlation function of the topographic height in the homogeneous case, and a linear transform thereof in the continuously stratified case.

Some properties of the averaged equations are discussed. Explicit nonlinear solutions in the form of one-dimensional travelling waves can be found. In the homogeneous case, previously studied by Volosov, they obey a second-order differential equation; in the stratified case on which we focus they obey a nonlinear pseudo-differential equation, which reduces to the Peierls-Nabarro equation for sinusoidal topography. The known solutions to this equation provide examples of nonlinear periodic and solitary waves in continuously stratified fluid over topography.

The influence of bottom topography on large-scale baroclinic instability is also examined using the averaged equations: they allow a straightforward extension of Eady's model which demonstrates the stabilizing effect of topography on baroclinic instability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-318
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Volume474
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2003

Keywords

  • SMALL-SCALE TOPOGRAPHY
  • ROSSBY WAVES
  • PLANETARY-WAVES
  • BOTTOMED OCEAN
  • VARIABLE DEPTH
  • 2-LAYER MODEL
  • LOCALIZATION

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