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Mean flow generation by three-dimensional nonlinear internal wave beams

  • F. Beckebanze (a1), K. J. Raja (a2) and L. R. M. Maas (a3)


We study the generation of resonantly growing mean flow by weakly nonlinear internal wave beams. With a perturbational expansion, we construct analytic solutions for three-dimensional internal wave beams, exact up to first-order accuracy in the viscosity parameter. We specifically focus on the subtleties of wave beam generation by oscillating boundaries, such as wave makers in laboratory set-ups. The exact solutions to the linearized equations allow us to derive an analytic expression for the mean vertical vorticity production term, which induces a horizontal mean flow. Whereas mean flow generation associated with viscous beam attenuation – known as streaming – has been described before, we are the first to also include a peculiar inviscid mean flow generation in the vicinity of the oscillating wall, resulting from line vortices at the lateral edges of the oscillating boundary. Our theoretical expression for the mean vertical vorticity production is in good agreement with earlier laboratory experiments, for which the previously unrecognized inviscid mean flow generation mechanism turns out to be significant.


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