The structure of low Froude number lee waves over an isolated obstacle

S B Dalziel, Michael D Patterson, C P Caulfield, S Le Brun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


We present new insight into the classical problem of a uniform flow, linearly stratified in density, past an isolated three-dimensional obstacle. We demonstrate how, for a low-Froude-number obstacle, simple linear theory with a linearized boundary condition is capable of providing excellent quantitative agreement with laboratory measurements of the perturbation to the density field. It has long been known that such a flow may be divided into two regions, an essentially horizontal flow around the base of the obstacle and a wave-generating flow over the top of the obstacle, but until now the experimental diagnostics have not been available to test quantitatively the predicted features. We show that recognition of a small slope that develops across the obstacle in the surface separating these two regions is vital to rationalize experimental measurements with theoretical predictions. Utilizing the principle of stationary phase and causality arguments to modify the relationship between wavenumbers in the lee waves, linearized theory provides a detailed match in both the wave amplitude and structure to our experimental observations. Our results demonstrate that the structure of the lee waves is extremely sensitive to departures from horizontal flow, a detail that is likely to be important for a broad range of geophysical manifestations of these waves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-31
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2011

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