Atmosphere   | Ocean |   Textbook

Solid body rotation: the parabolic shape taken up by the free surface of water in solid body rotation is studied. Similarly, we study why rotating planets take on the shape of an oblate spheroid.

Dye stirring: beautiful interleaving patterns are created by stirring colored dyes into a rotating fluid. Examples from atmospheric and oceanic flows are studied.

Balanced vortex: the balance of forces in the momentum equation in a rotating frame of reference is investigated by studying the flow of water down a drain-hole in a rotating system. The ideas are applied to intense atmospheric vortices such as hurricanes.

Fronts: we create fronts in the laboratory by bringing together two bodies of water of differing densities in a rotating system. We study atmospheric fronts using meteorological data.

Ekman layers: ageostrophic flow in a bottom Ekman layer is investigated in high and low pressure surfaces created in the laboratory. The same phenomenon is studied in analyzed surface fields of atmospheric highs and lows.

General circulation: the Hadley circulation and middle-latitude weather systems are studied in a rotating annulus experiment, using an ice bucket to represent the pole, and in atmospheric data.

Convection: The evolution of convective boundary layers and convective plumes are studied as an analogue of dry atmospheric and oceanic convection.

Flow over a barrier: this experiment investigates Rossby waves generated by flow over a barrier on a beta plane.

Taylor Columns: The rigidity imparted to a fluid by rotation, as encapsulated in the Taylor-Proudman theorem, is investigated by studying flow over a submerged obstacle.

Density currents: The role of density differences in driving fluid motion is studied using an experiment first carried out by Marsigli in 1695

Ekman pumping/suction: cyclonic and anticylonic circulations are set up in the laboratory through the use of fans blowing air over the surface of the water to study the role of Ekman layers in inducing vertical motion.

Ocean gyres: western intensification of the wind-driven ocean circulation is studied by setting up a gyre in the presence of topographic beta.

Thermohaline circulation: the thermohaline circulation of the ocean is studied in a rendition of the classic Stommel-Arons experiment

Source/sink flow: flow from source to sink on a topographic beta plane is studied as an analogue of mid-depth/abyssal circulation in the ocean.

Rossby waves: Rossby waves are studied by investigating the ‘westward’ drift of a vortex induced by a melting ice cube in a rotating fluid of variable depth. Rossby waves in the ocean, as seen from satellite altimetry, are also presented.