Experimenting with Fluids (OCEAN 569a)

OCEAN 569a

4 credits


Website: http://www.ocean.washington.edu/research/gfd/oc569a-2008/

Location: 107 OSB and 206 OTB

Schedule: 2 afternoons (6 hours) per week, days TBD

Department: Oceanography

Quarter: Winter

Natural flows in atmosphere and oceans, and engineering flows, can be modelled by computer and in the laboratory. Many of the difficult ideas of fluid dynamics can be illuminated with appropriate lab experiments. In this course students carry out term-long experimental projects, singly or in pairs, in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and teaching laboratory of the School of Oceanography. In the previous six offerings of this course, many projects have led to chapters in Ph.D. dissertations, published research papers and in some way illuminated computer models or observations.

For physical oceanographers, atmospheric scientists and engineers our motivation is two-fold: to study large- and meso- (synoptic) scale circulation, eddies and waves in rotating, stratified, possibly β-plane fluids, and also to explore small-scale ‘classical fluid dynamics’ that is absent or heavily parameterized in computer circulation models: topographic effects, deep convection, gravity-wave drag, turbulent mixing, double-diffusion, boundary layers and topographically influenced flow. Rossby waves, baroclinic instability, and wave/mean-flow interaction can be studied with our new visualization method: optical altimetry.

For geophysicists and chemists we can offer the chance to explore the interaction of fluids with the land surface, with ice, or with sea-floor sediments, beach-building by ocean waves, ground-water flow, chemical transfer across liquid/sediment interfaces, or gas transfer across the air/sea interface. Some interesting projects have occurred in past years involving icebergs and hydrothermal plumes.

For biologists there are important interactions of fluids with living systems, externally and internally. We have successfully mentored projects in 'bioconvection' (fluid convection produced by light-seeking plankton), porous membranes that separate ions in flowing fluids, and entire fluid microcosms ('life in a sealed flask') where only the sunlight communicates energy to an otherwise closed, evolving, air-water ecosystem.

Term projects will be developed from a list of ideas (or from students’ own suggestions). Term reports will be developed as dynamic web pages, which grow during the term. We emphasize basic dynamics, and use measurement techniques involving digital photography, time-lapse video, pH sensitive dye tracers, computer-logged temperature-salinity probes and surface wave gauges, and extensive computer analysis of experimental data sets using Matlab™. We will have mini-lectures each week on experimental technique and some fundamental ideas about the inner workings of fluids.

Course webpage: http://www.ocean.washington.edu/research/gfd/oc569a-2008/