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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 3
Ann. Geophys., 15, 366–374, 1997
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-997-0366-x
© European Geosciences Union 1997
Ann. Geophys., 15, 366–374, 1997
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-997-0366-x
© European Geosciences Union 1997

  31 Mar 1997

31 Mar 1997

Gravity current down a steeply inclined slope in a rotating fluid

G. I. Shapiro and A. G. Zatsepin G. I. Shapiro and A. G. Zatsepin
  • P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, 23 Krasikova str. 117218 Moscow, Russia

Abstract. The sinking of dense water down a steep continental slope is studied using laboratory experiments, theoretical analysis and numerical simulation. The experiments were made in a rotating tank containing a solid cone mounted on the tank floor and originally filled with water of constant density. A bottom gravity current was produced by injecting more dense coloured water at the top of the cone. The dense water plume propagated from the source down the inclined cone wall and formed a bottom front separating the dense and light fluids. The location of the bottom front was measured as a function of time for various experimental parameters. In the majority of runs a stable axisymmetric flow was observed. In certain experiments, the bottom layer became unstable and was broken into a system of frontal waves which propagated down the slope. The fluid dynamics theory was developed for a strongly non-linear gravity current forming a near-bottom density front. The theory takes into account both bottom and interfacial friction as well as deviation of pressure from the hydrostatic formula in the case of noticeable vertical velocities. Analytical and numerical solutions were found for the initial (t < 1/ƒ), intermediate (t1/ƒ), and main (t » 1/ƒ) stages, where ƒ is the Coriolis parameter. The model results show that during the initial stage non-linear inertial oscillations are developed. During the main stage, the gravity current is concentrated in the bottom layer which has a thickness of the order of the Ekman scale. The numerical solutions are close to the same analytical one. Stability analysis shows that the instability threshold depends mainly on the Froude number and does not depend on the Ekman number. The results of laboratory experiments confirm the similarity properties of the bottom front propagation and agree well with the theoretical predictions.

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