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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Generation and maintenance of bulk turbulence by libration-driven elliptical instability

  • Author(s): Favier, B
  • Grannan, AM
  • Le Bars, M
  • Aurnou, JM
  • et al.

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© 2015 AIP Publishing LLC. Longitudinal libration corresponds to the periodic oscillation of a body's rotation rate and is, along with precessional and tidal forcings, a possible source of mechanicallydriven turbulence in the fluid interior of satellites and planets. In this study, we present a combination of direct numerical simulations and laboratory experiments, modeling this geophysically relevant mechanical forcing. We investigate the fluid motions inside a longitudinally librating ellipsoidal container filled with an incompressible fluid. The elliptical instability, which is a triadic resonance between two inertial modes and the oscillating base flow with elliptical streamlines, is observed both numerically and experimentally. The large-scale inertial modes eventually lead to small-scale turbulence, provided that the Ekman number is small enough. We characterize this transition to turbulence as additional triadic resonances develop while also investigating the properties of the turbulent flow that displays both intermittent and sustained regimes. These turbulent flows may play an important role in the thermal and magnetic evolution of bodies subject to mechanical forcing, which is not considered in standard models of convectively driven magnetic field generation.

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