Rotational Splittings of Acoustic Modes in an Experimental Model of a Planetary Core

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Matthew M Adams, Douglas Stone and Daniel Perry Lathrop, Univ of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States
Planetary zonal flows can be probed in principle using the tools of helioseismology. We explore this technique using laboratory experiments where the measurement of zonal flows is also of geophysical relevance. The experiments are carried out in a device with a geometry similar to that of Earth's core. It consists of a 60 cm diameter outer spherical shell concentric with a 20 cm diameter inner sphere. Air between the inner sphere and outer shell is used as the working fluid. A turbulent shear flow is driven in the air by independently rotating the inner sphere and outer shell. Acoustic modes are excited in the vessel with a speaker, and microphones are used to measure the rotational splittings of these modes. The radial profile of azimuthal velocities is inferred from these splittings, in an approach analogous to that used in helioseismology to determine solar velocity profiles. By varying the inner and outer rotation rates, different turbulent states can be investigated. Comparison is made to previous experimental investigations of turbulent spherical Couette flow. These experiments also serve as a test of this diagnostic, which may be used in the future in liquid sodium experiments, providing information on zonal flows in hydromagnetic experiments.