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Experimental study of global-scale turbulence in a librating ellipsoid

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We present laboratory experimental results demonstrating that librational forcing of an ellipsoidal container of water can produce intense motions through the mechanism of a libration driven elliptical instability (LDEI). These libration studies are conducted using an ellipsoidal acrylic container filled with water. A particle image velocimetry method is used to measure the 2D velocity field in the equatorial plane over hundreds libration cycles for a fixed Ekman number, E = 2 × 10-5. In doing so, we recover the libration induced base flow and a time averaged zonal flow. Further, we show that LDEI in non-axisymmetric container geometries is capable of driving both intermittent and saturated turbulent motions in the bulk fluid. Additionally, we measure the growth rate and amplitude of the LDEI induced excited flow in a fully ellipsoidal container at more extreme parameters than previously studied [Noir et al., "Experimental study of libration-driven flows in nonaxisymmetric containers," Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 204-205, 1 (2012); Cébron et al., Phys. Fluids 24, 061703, "Libration driven elliptical instability," (2012)]. Excitation of bulk filling turbulence by librational forcing provides a mechanism for transferring rotational energy into turbulent fluid motion and thus can play an important role in the thermal evolution, interior dynamics, and magneto-hydrodynamics of librating bodies, as appear to be common in solar system settings [e.g., Comstock and Bills, "A solar system survey of forced librations in longitude," J. Geophys. Res. Planets 108, 1 (2003)].

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