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Experimental observation of the geostrophic turbulence regime of rapidly rotating convection [Physics]
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America  (IF11.205),  Pub Date : 2021-11-02, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2105015118
Vincent Bouillaut, Benjamin Miquel, Keith Julien, Sébastien Aumaître, Basile Gallet

The competition between turbulent convection and global rotation in planetary and stellar interiors governs the transport of heat and tracers, as well as magnetic field generation. These objects operate in dynamical regimes ranging from weakly rotating convection to the “geostrophic turbulence” regime of rapidly rotating convection. However, the latter regime has remained elusive in the laboratory, despite a worldwide effort to design ever-taller rotating convection cells over the last decade. Building on a recent experimental approach where convection is driven radiatively, we report heat transport measurements in quantitative agreement with this scaling regime, the experimental scaling law being validated against direct numerical simulations (DNS) of the idealized setup. The scaling exponent from both experiments and DNS agrees well with the geostrophic turbulence prediction. The prefactor of the scaling law is greater than the one diagnosed in previous idealized numerical studies, pointing to an unexpected sensitivity of the heat transport efficiency to the precise distribution of heat sources and sinks, which greatly varies from planets to stars.