Hetonic explosion

Or, an experiment on this blog often known as “slumping column”. (deutscher Text unten)

If you don’t scale your tilting of frontal surfaces under rotation experiment correctly, you get a phenomenon called “hetonic explosion”: the formation of a cloud of baroclinic point vortices. From the densities, the rotation rate, the dimensions etc you can calculate the Rossby radius and determine how many eddies you will generate. In our case, though, the calculation went wrong by a factor 10 (9.81, to be precise) and what we ended up getting is shown below.

Watch the movie below for the whole experiment (though most of it in time lapse).

Heute haben wir ein sehr spannendes Experiment gemacht. In einem Drehtank hatten wir in der Mitte einen Zylinder mit gefärbten Salzwasser und außen herum klarer Süßwasser ins Gleichgewicht gedreht. Dann wurde der Zylinder entfernt und die Säule blauen Wassers musste ein neues Gleichgewicht finden.

Im Film oben zeigen wir das Experiment – zum Teil allerdings im Zeitraffer. Viel Spaß!

Tilting of a frontal surface under rotation

Eddy in a rotating tank.

This is an experiment that Pierre and I ran two years ago in Bergen but that – as I just realized – has not been featured on this blog before. Which is a pity, because it is a pretty cool experiment.

Under rotation, vertical fronts with different densities on either side can persist for a long time without leading to the density-driven adjustment shown in the non-rotating Marsigli experiment. This is what we demonstrate with this experiment.

In a not-yet-rotating tank, dyed salt water is filled into a centered cylinder while, at the same time, fresh water is filled in the tank outside of the cylinder.

This setup is then spun up for approximately half an hour. Then, the cylinder can be carefully removed and the column of dense water can adjust to the new conditions.

Screen shot 2012-03-09 at 5.50.07 PM
The rotating tank just as the cylinder is being removed

When the cylinder is being removed, disturbances are being introduced. Hence, several columns with sloping fronts develop in the rotating system.

Screen shot 2012-03-09 at 5.50.16 PM
Dense columns developing towards an equilibrium state in the rotating system.

This is what the rotating tank looks like from the side several minutes after the cylinder has been removed.

Screen shot 2012-03-09 at 5.50.26 PM
Side view of the sloping front around the dense column

Here are a couple of movies of this experiment. First a top view (note how you can see the deformation of the surface when you focus on the reflection of the ceiling lights on the water’s surface!):

Then a side view:

And finally (just because it’s fun) this is what it looks like when you switch off the rotation of the tank when you are done with the experiment:

Eddies – surface imprint and optical properties

You can see “shadows” of eddies on the ground!

As everybody who has ever watched a bath tub drain knows – eddies do lead to a deformation of the water’s surface. Here is an example of what that looks like in the real world:

Eddies coming off the edge of a rock in a current.

In case you don’t see the eddies like pearls on a string coming off the edge of that rock in the picture above, watch the movie below – it’s much clearer when it is moving! Do you see the surface dipping where those little eddies are?

And in the movie below you can see how there is a shadow at the bottom underneath each of those eddies.

Why, you ask? Well, remember this from last weeks post?

Two 1 NOK coins, the one in the back with a water droplet in the hole in the middle.

The water droplet with the convex surface focusses the light. The eddies with a concave surface, on the other hand, does have the opposite effect: As the light enters the water, it is refracted away from its previous axis, leading to a “shadow” at the bottom underneath the eddy. How cool is that?