The mystery of Lokksund. Mysterious as ever, and I am still intrigued…

Forget climate change and all the big questions, there is this one thing that is really bugging me because I haven’t figured it out yet, but I really want to: This morning, when I was searching my old backup drives for data for my friend, I came across my favorite oceanography riddle of all times (which is still, as far as I know, unsolved!).

In 2012 and 2013, I went on cruises in the area of Hardangerfjorden, and there is one place that I find very intriguing: A narrow straight, connecting Hardangerfjorden in the south to Bjørnafjorden in the north. This straight is called Lokksund, and in its narrowest bit it’s only something like 20 meters wide and 30 meters deep. Which, as soon as water levels on both ends of the street are not exactly the same, leads to pretty strong currents.

In the description of Norwegian shipping lanes, it says about Lokksund “in the narrow part of the straight, the tidal current can be strong, up to 3-4 knots during spring tides, shifting direction every two hours. It goes southward for two hours before high tide, stops at high tide, goes north for two hours after high tide, and so on. … If there is constant wind from the south, the current can go continuously northwards. For wind from north or west, the same situation can happen with southward currents” (Den norske los 3, Farvannsbeskrivelse, Jørem Rev-Stad, 2006).

That the current is very strong in the straight was fairly obvious, and captain and crew were understandably not too happy that we wanted to spend a lot of time there (funnily enough, it’s Lokksund you see on the map on the screen in the picture below! Clearly, I really wanted to go there!).

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On the bridge, discussing the scientific plan for the next day. Picture courtesy of Angus Munro.

However, the current directions that we observed didn’t seem to agree with the farvannsbeskrivelse, but they also did not seem to agree with tides from mooring data we had from north and south of the mouths of Lokksund. So we ended up doing a repeat CTD station just north of Lokksund. The CTD data is very interesting:

Above, you see a plot for salinity, and below for temperature. And there is a strong interface in both S and T — approximately at sill depth! — that is oscillating with the same frequency as described in the farvannsbeskrivelse, although from what I remember the timing was somehow different from what we expected based on the tides from the mooring data we had available.

Also, looking at how narrow the straight is, even with peak speeds of 3-4 knots, the volume of water that can actually go through Lokksund is actually very small. So even though the mixing in the narrow spots with high speeds is probably very high, the volume of displaced water is still very very low, and it’s not even clear how big its influence on mixing between the two fjords is.

But that’s not what makes me so intrigued: It should be such an easy system to understand: A narrow straight and water levels on either end driving the flow through the straight. Right? Except there is clearly more to it, and I wish I could go back there and figure out what that is!

I know for a fact that to this day, some of the crew vividly remember the time we spent in Lokksund during that cruise, and that they don’t have the fondest memories of being in a narrow straight in a strong current in the dark. But I still think it was good we spent all that time there, and luckily Elin is taking on this riddle now, hope you will keep us posted on what you find! :-)

“Laboratory layered latte” – combining latte and double diffusion. Easily my favourite paper ever!

My friends know me well. Especially A&I, which was proven again when they sent me the link to an article about two things that I am mildly obsessed with: Latte and double-diffusive mixing.

My obsession with latte is a fairly recent thing, but I have been known to blog about interesting convection pattern in it (for example here). The obsession with double-diffusive mixing, however, is well documented for more than the last 12 years (for example when I am writing experimental instructionspoems or scientific articles about it).

The double-diffusive process that I have been most concerned with is salt fingering, because it is oh-so-pretty, and also fool-proof to create for teaching purposes (when you know how to do it).

Diffusive layering I seem have to be a little frustrated with, at least in teaching (but reading back this post now, it turns out that that was entirely my own fault and not my students’. Oh well, you live and learn! Isn’t this exactly the kind of stuff that makes for great teaching portfolios? ;-)).

And it also turns out that I did the experiments themselves all wrong. According to the article “laboratory layered latte” by Xue et al. (2017) I should not have been trying to carefully stratify a tank in order to see diffusive layering. Instead, I should just have quickly poured the lower density fluid into the higher density one, and layers would have formed by themselves!

So there is one thing that you won’t see any time soon:

Yep. Me drinking latte from any kind of vessel that doesn’t let me look at the stratification! I don’t know how I could ever have fallen into the trap of missing out on observing fluid dynamics while having my early morning coffee in the office. Now I urgently need a nice glass mug!

And you should go check out the article, it’s a really nice read. My new ambition in life: Write a fluid dynamics research article that applies the FD to some really cool, yet mundane, every day thing. Are you in, Elin? :-)

Xue, Nan and Khodaparast, Sepideh and Zhu, Lailai and Nunes, Janine K. and Kim, Hyoungsoo and Stone, Howard A., Laboratory layered latte. Nature Communications 8(1), 2017

Let’s guess tides!

Actually, there is no need to guess. If you tilt your head 45 degrees to the left, you are looking at Hamburg the way it would be shown on a map, North up. The Elbe river, which you see in the foreground, flows east-to-west into the North Sea. And now there are at least two spots in the image below where you can see fronts in the water, more turbid water in the main river bed, clearer water in side arms and bays. Those fronts always start at upstream headlands and go downstream from there, therefore it must be ebb tide, with the water going out into the North Sea. Easy peasy :-)


Funny how “upstream” and “downstream” make so little sense in a tidal river, yet everybody knows what I mean…

Would be interesting to see if you can see fronts when the tide is coming in, too, when the muddy river water is pushed into the more stagnant side arms and bays. I expect so but don’t actually know. Maybe I will be able to observe it on some future flight?

Whale watching on the Azores

Whale watching on Terceira was A-MAH-ZING. We saw three different kinds of dolphins: Bottle-nose, common and spotted. But what you should really be doing once you are done swooning over all the pictures below: go over to Elin Darelius & team’s blog and read about what is going on with the 13-m-diameter rotating tank! :-)
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And here is a video. Be careful you don’t get sea sick — it was impossible to hold the camera steady on a moving boat, plus I was too excited to care much about it ;-)

Why the Isère reminds me of a water jet pump

This is what the way to and from the 13-meter-diameter rotating tank in Grenoble looks like (and you should really visit Elin & team’s blog to learn about all the exciting stuff we are doing there!!!)

And the best part is the Isère right next to the bike path:

And one thing that I find really impressive with this river (coming from a much flatter part of the world than Grenoble, where rivers aren’t typically as fast-flowing as the Isère) is how all these return flow pools form everywhere.

Watch the movie below to spot them yourself, or my annotated picture below:

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It seems really counterintuitive that a strong current would make water on it’s side flow upstream instead of flushing everything downstream or even just going downstream through stagnant water, doesn’t it? But when I thought about why that is, it reminded me of the way a water jet pump works: You flush water from a tap down through a hose, and that hose is connected with another hose through which you want to suck something (usually some gas out of some container). So there it’s the same: The fast-flowing water pulls things in from the side and takes them with it. Now for continuity reasons, the water that is entrained in the jet needs to come from somewhere, so water has to be brought upstream in order to get sucked into the jet. That’s also similar to playing with Venturi tubes where the thinner the tube, the faster the flow, the lower the pressure… Anyway, riddle solved and I can think about other stuff again ;-)

But it is a really beautiful place to be:

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I like water so much better than mountains, but mountains still have their charms, can’t deny that…

 

 

Wave watching Sunday in Grenoble

Today I went on a wave-hunt expedition to take pictures for posts on the Froude and Reynolds number over at Elin & team’s blog (which you should totally check out if you haven’t done that yet! I am actually proof-reading my posts there and that is saying something ;-))

Anyway. Let’s look at the picture below. Do you see how there are two qualitatively different flow regimes in the Isère? Closer to the banks, you see waves that look like normal waves, happily propagating wherever they want to. And towards the middle of the river, you see that there is a lot of turbulence, but disturbances don’t propagate wherever they want, they are being flushed downstream.

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For comparison below a picture of a part of the Isère where it is turbulent all the way to the sides:

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And below a nice example of how phase velocity of waves depends on wave length. See all the small, choppy stuff being flushed downstream and then standing waves caused by some obstacle in the middle of the river? That’s because the longer the wavelength, the faster the wave propagates (assuming that we are in deep water, which I think is a safe assumption in this case). So the river is so fast that the slower waves get flushed away and only waves of the length of those created by the obstacle (or longer) can stay in one place (or even propagate against the current). I think that’s pretty cool.

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Below is one of my favourite wave-watching sights: A half slit.

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And in the picture below, we can kinda see vortices detaching behind the obstacle (or is that just me)?

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And what I really liked: see the spot below where there are all of a sudden standing waves appearing in the middle of the river? Clearly there is a sill below, but I like that you cannot see the obstacle, just deduce that it must be there from how the waves look :-)

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It’s not a hardship to be here, I can tell you ;-)

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It is quite a beautiful place! And, by the way, this is my 600th blog post on this blog. Can you believe this?

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Foam pattern when hard-boiling eggs

Today we have foam patterns again, but of a very different kind than usually:

I don’t know if I have just never noticed before (I can’t really imagine I would have missed that?), if it never happened when I have boiled eggs because I always boil my eggs with more bubbles and hence more turbulence, or if French eggs are just different from german eggs?

But living in this shared flat in Grenoble is proving to be quite educational. Not only have we learned that you should never wash eggs because that destroys some protective layer of “hen juice” (technical term coined by Nadine), we also learned that a peanut and a salted peanut have different names in French (l’arachide vs la cacahouètte), and that there are cheeses with a layer of ash in them.

But anyway, I don’t think it’s foam that comes off the eggs, I think it’s coming off the bottom of the pot. Because if those bubbles are raising up from the bottom, that would explain why there are more bubbles around the edges of the eggs (when they had to move around the eggs to get to the surface) than in between, and that there is hardly any foam above the eggs? Or what do you think?

And then, of course, we are learning all the cool oceanography stuff, too, and you can read all about it over on Elin’s blog!

Total reflection and fishies

Do you know the phenomenon that once you start noticing something, you see it everywhere? That’s been the case with me and total internal reflection. Not quite as impressive as last time, but still there:

And what I found really interesting this time: a swarm of tiny fishies making wave rings! I only noticed them because of those tiny waves. And if you look closely you can see so many of them just below the surface right where the wave rings are!

So funny to see the water almost boiling with fish on such a calm morning.

And another thing that fascinated me: how it’s so much easier to see into the water in places that are shaded (or dark) from the reflection of that pier. Not quite sure yet why it’s so much easier to see here, maybe just because there isn’t any glare? Any ideas?