Plumes in a rotating two-layer stratified fluid

  • Yongxing Ma
  • Morris R. Flynn
  • Bruce R. SutherlandEmail author
Original Article


Laboratory experiments are conducted to examine a descending plume in a rotating two-layer stratified ambient fluid such that the plume at the interface has moderate to large Rossby number. While the source fluid is more dense than the lower layer, the experiments are designed so that the mean density of the plume fluid impinging upon the interface is less than the lower layer density, as represented by a buoyancy parameter, \(\varLambda \), being less than unity. In such cases, the discharged plume fluid spreads radially at the interface in the form of an intrusive gravity current at early times. At later times, this intrusion evolves to form an anticyclonic lens due to the influence of the Coriolis force. The measured radial position of the intrusion front, R(t), follows different power law relationships at early and late times during the spread of the intrusion: at early times when rotation does not play a significant role the power law exponent lies between 0.5 and 1.1; at late times when the intrusion acts as a rotationally influenced expanding lens the power law exponent ranges between 0.15 and 0.5, with generally smaller values for larger \(\varLambda \). The plume fluid reaching the interface progressively increases in density due to re-entraining relatively dense fluid as the plume descends within the thickening lens. Consequently, the plume eventually penetrates through the interface and descends to the bottom of the tank. Faster rotation makes the lens thicker and hence increases the volume of the re-entrained lens-fluid, which decreases the time for the onset of penetration. The penetration time normalized by the rotation rate is found to hold a simple power law relationship with \(\varLambda \).


Plumes Stratification Rotation Interfacial gravity current Geostrophic spreading 



Funding for this study was generously provided by NSERC through the Discovery Grant and RTI programs.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Departments of Physics and of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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