Boundary layer control of rotating convection systems
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/nature07647
Turbulent rotating convection controls many observed features of stars and planets, such as magnetic fields, atmospheric jets and emitted heat flux patterns. It has long been argued that the influence of rotation on turbulent convection dynamics is governed by the ratio of the relevant global-scale forces: the Coriolis force and the buoyancy force. Here, however, we present results from laboratory and numerical experiments which exhibit transitions between rotationally dominated and non-rotating behaviour that are not determined by this global force balance. Instead, the transition is controlled by the relative thicknesses of the thermal (non-rotating) and Ekman (rotating) boundary layers. We formulate a predictive description of the transition between the two regimes on the basis of the competition between these two boundary layers. This transition scaling theory unifies the disparate results of an extensive array of previous experiments, and is broadly applicable to natural convection systems.