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Stability of parallel wake flows in quasigeostrophic and frontal regimes

Abstract : Recent laboratory experiments [G. Perret, A. Stegner, M. Farge, and T. Pichon, Phys. Fluids 18, 036603 (2006)] have shown that the vortex-street formed in the wake of a towed cylinder in a rotating shallow-water layer could present a strong cyclone-anticyclone asymmetry. In extreme cases, only large-scale anticyclones were observed in the far wake. This asymmetry occurs in the so-called frontal regime when the Rossby number is small and the surface deviation is large. This asymmetry may have various origins and in particular may be attributed to the asymmetry of the flow around the cylinder, to the linear stability property of the wake, or to its nonlinear evolution. To discriminate between these mechanisms, we study the stability of two idealized parallel flows in the quasigeostrophic and in the frontal regimes. These parallel flows correspond to two velocity profiles measured just behind the cylinder in a region where the perturbations are negligible. According to our linear stability analysis, the most unstable mode, in the frontal regime, is localized in the anticyclonic shear region whether the base flow profile is symmetric or not. On a linear basis, it is thus more the instability that imposes the asymmetry than the base flow. Direct numerical simulations of the synthetic parallel wake flows show that nonlinearity exacerbates the dominance of the anticyclonic mode linearly selected. By numerically studying the spatio-temporal evolution of a small perturbation localized in space, we show that, unlike incompressible two-dimensional wake flows and the symmetric wake in the quasigeostrophic regime, the parallel asymmetric wake is strongly convectively unstable in the frontal regime, and not absolutely unstable. When the surface deformation becomes large, the wake instability changes from the absolute instability in the quasi-geostrophic regime to the strongly convective instability of the frontal regime. This explains well the changes. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.
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G. Perret, A. Stegner, T. Dubos, Jean-Marc Chomaz, M. Farge. Stability of parallel wake flows in quasigeostrophic and frontal regimes. Physics of Fluids, 2006, 18 (12), pp.126602. ⟨10.1063/1.2397563⟩. ⟨hal-01023371⟩



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