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Available potential energy density for a multicomponent Boussinesq fluid with arbitrary nonlinear equation of state

Tailleux, R. (2013) Available potential energy density for a multicomponent Boussinesq fluid with arbitrary nonlinear equation of state. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 735. pp. 499-518. ISSN 0022-1120

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2013.509


In this paper, the concept of available potential energy (APE) density is extended to a multicomponent Boussinesq fluid with a nonlinear equation of state. As shown by previous studies, the APE density is naturally interpreted as the work against buoyancy forces that a parcel needs to perform to move from a notional reference position at which its buoyancy vanishes to its actual position; because buoyancy can be defined relative to an arbitrary reference state, so can APE density. The concept of APE density is therefore best viewed as defining a class of locally defined energy quantities, each tied to a different reference state, rather than as a single energy variable. An important result, for which a new proof is given, is that the volume integrated APE density always exceeds Lorenz’s globally defined APE, except when the reference state coincides with Lorenz’s adiabatically re-arranged reference state of minimum potential energy. A parcel reference position is systematically defined as a level of neutral buoyancy (LNB): depending on the nature of the fluid and on how the reference state is defined, a parcel may have one, none, or multiple LNB within the fluid. Multiple LNB are only possible for a multicomponent fluid whose density depends on pressure. When no LNB exists within the fluid, a parcel reference position is assigned at the minimum or maximum geopotential height. The class of APE densities thus defined admits local and global balance equations, which all exhibit a conversion with kinetic energy, a production term by boundary buoyancy fluxes, and a dissipation term by internal diffusive effects. Different reference states alter the partition between APE production and dissipation, but neither affect the net conversion between kinetic energy and APE, nor the difference between APE production and dissipation. We argue that the possibility of constructing APE-like budgets based on reference states other than Lorenz’s reference state is more important than has been previously assumed, and we illustrate the feasibility of doing so in the context of an idealised and realistic oceanic example, using as reference states one with constant density and another one defined as the horizontal mean density field; in the latter case, the resulting APE density is found to be a reasonable approximation of the APE density constructed from Lorenz’s reference state, while being computationally cheaper.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Walker Institute
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:34396
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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