Chaotic advection and mixing in a western boundary current-recirculation system : laboratory experiments

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Deese, Heather E.
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I study the exchange between a boundary current and flanking horizontal recirculations in a 'sliced-cylinder' rotating tank laboratory experiment. Two flow configurations are investigated: a single recirculation and a double, figure-8, recirculation. The latter case involves a hyperbolic point, while the former does not. I investigate the stirring and mixing under both steady and unsteady forcing. I quantify the mixing in each case using effective diffusivity, Keff, and a corollary effective length, Leff, as derived by Nakamura (1995, 1996). This approach involves diagnosing the geometric complexity of a tracer field. Geometric complexity is indicative of advective stirring. Because stirring creates high gradients, flows with high advective stirring also have high diffusion, and stronger overall mixing. I calculate effective length from images of dye in the tank and find much higher values of Leff in the unsteady hyperbolic cases than in the other cases. Slight unsteadiness in flows involving hyperbolic points gives rise to a chaotic advection mechanism known as 'lobe dynamics'. These lobes carry fluid in and out of the recirculations, acting as extremely effective stirring mechanisms. I demonstrate the existence of these exchange lobes in the unsteady hyperbolic (figure-8) flow. The velocity field in the tank is calculated utilizing particle image velocimetry (PIV) techniques and a time series U(t) demonstrates the (forced) unsteadiness in the flow. Images of dye in the tank show exchange lobes forming at this same forcing period, and caring fluid in and out of the recirculation. Based on the results of these experiments, I am able to confirm that, at least in this controlled environment, basic geometry has a profound effect on the mixing effectiveness of a recirculation. I demonstrate radically increased stirring and mixing in the unsteady hyperbolic flow as compared to steady flows and flows without hyperbolic points. Recirculations are ubiquitous in the world ocean; they occur on a variety of scales, in many different configurations, and at all depths. Some of these configurations involve hyperbolic points, while others do not. Chaotic advection via lobe exchange may be an important component of the mixing at multiple locations in the ocean where hyperbolic recirculation geometries exist.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution February 2001
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Deese, H. E. (2001). Chaotic advection and mixing in a western boundary current-recirculation system : laboratory experiments [Doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]. Woods Hole Open Access Server.
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