## Balance, gravity waves and jets in turbulent shallow water flows

##### Abstract

This thesis contains a thorough investigation of the properties of freely decaying turbulence in a rotating shallow water layer on a sphere. A large number
of simulations, covering an extensive range of Froude and Rossby numbers, have
been carried out using a novel numerical algorithm that exploits the underly-
ing properties of the flow. In general these flows develop coherent structures;
vortices interact, merge and migrate polewards or equatorwards depending or
their sign, leaving behind regions of homogenized potential vorticity separated
by sharp zonal jets. In the first half of the thesis we investigate new ways of looking at these structures. In the second half of the thesis we examine the properties
of the potential vorticity (PV) induced, balanced component and the residual,
unbalanced component of the flows.
Cyclone-anticyclone asymmetry has long been observed in atmospheric and
oceanic data, laboratory experiments and numerical simulations. This asymmetry is usually seen to favour anticyclonic vorticity with the asymmetry becoming more pronounced at higher Froude numbers (e.g. Polvani et al. [1994a]). We find a similar result but note that the cyclones, although fewer, are significantly
more intense and coherent. We present several ways of quantifying this across
the parameter space.
Potential vorticity homogenization is an important geophysical mechanism
responsible for sharpening jets through the expulsion of PV gradients to the edge of flow structures or domains. Sharp gradients of PV are obvious in contour plots
of this field as areas where the contours are bunched together. This suggests that
we can estimate the number of zonal jets by performing a cluster analysis on
the mean latitude of PV contours (this diagnostic is also examined by Dritschel
and McIntyre [2007]). This provides an estimate rather than an exact count of
the number of jets because the jets meander signficantly. We investigate the
accuracy of the estimates provided by different clustering techniques. We find
that the properties of the jets defy such simple classification and instead demand
a more local examination. We achieve this by examining the palinstrophy field.
This field, calculated by taking the gradient of the PV, highlights the regions
where PV contours come closer together, exactly what we would expect in regions
of strong jets. Plots of the palinstrophy field reveal the complex structure of these
features.
The potential vorticity field is even more central to the flow evolution than
the strong link with jets suggests. From a knowledge of the spatial distribution
of PV, it is possible to diagnose the balanced components of all other fields.
These components will not contain inertia-gravity waves but will contain the
dominant, large scale features of the flow. This inversion, or decomposition into
balanced (vortical) and unbalanced (wave) components, is not unique and can be
defined to varying orders of accuracy. We examine the results of four dfferent
definitions of this decomposition, two based on truncations of the full equations
and two based on an iterative procedure applied to the full equations. We find the
iterative procedure to be more accurate in that it attributes more of the flow to
the PV controlled, balanced motion. However, the truncated equations perform
surprisingly well and do not appear to suffer in accuracy at the equator, despite
the fact that the scaling on which they are based has been thought to break down
there.
We round off this study by considering the impact of the unbalanced motion on the flow. This is accomplished by splitting the integration time of the model into
intervals τ < t < τ+dτ and comparing, at the end of each interval, the balanced
components of the flow obtained by a) integrating the model from t = 0 and b)
integrating the full equations, initialised at t = τ with the balanced components
from a) at t = τ. We find that any impact of the unbalanced component of the
flow is less than the numerical noise of the model.

##### Type

Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy

##### Collections

Items in the St Andrews Research Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.