Short-wave vortex instabilities in stratified flow
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Density stratification is one of the essential underlying physical mechanisms for atmospheric and oceanic flow. As a first step to investigating the mechanisms of stratified turbulence, linear stability plays a critical role in determining under what conditions a flow remains stable or unstable. In the study of transition to stratified turbulence, a common vortex model, known as the Lamb-Chaplygin dipole, is used to investigate the conditions under which stratified flow transitions to turbulence. Numerous investigations have determined that a critical length scale, known as the buoyancy length, plays a key role in the breakdown and transition to stratified turbulence. At this buoyancy length scale, an instability unique to stratified flow, the zigzag instability, emerges. However investigations into sub-buoyancy length scales have remained unexplored. In this thesis we discover and investigate a new instability of the Lamb-Chaplyin dipole that exists at the sub-buoyancy scale. Through numerical linear stability analysis we show that this short-wave instability exhibits growth rates similar to that of the zigzag instability. We conclude with nonlinear studies of this short-wave instability and demonstrate this new instability saturates at a level proportional to the cube of the aspect ratio.