Links to pages with details about individual projects are on the left.

Scientific Themes

There are currently four main scientific themes of our research activities:

  • Transport processes in rotating fluids - including transport of momentum, vorticity, heat and other tracers (such as potential vorticity).
  • Predictability of rotating fluids - including transitions to chaotic flow, and techniques to characterise chaos and to forecast chaotic systems.
  • Non-linear waves and instabilities in rotating fluids - including baroclinic and barotropic instabilities.
  • Development and validation of modelling techniques and methodology in dynamical meteorology and oceanography.

Example ICOM temperature field

Methods and Approaches

We currently make use of four main kinds of approaches in our research:

Laboratory studies of homogeneous and stratified rotating fluid systems

Rotating fluids experiments in the laboratory can be set up to mimic the large-scale forcing of a planetary atmosphere, e.g. by gravity, heat, and rotation. The laboratory setting allows study of the fundamental physics responsible for weather, climate, and localised atmospheric phenomena in a situation where the complexity of the experiment can be controlled, the experiments can be repeated, and many problems associated with atmospheric observation and data analysis are avoided.

Numerical models of rotating, stratified flow

Alongside the laboratory experiments are computer models used to simulate the experiments themselves. These allow us to build a more theoretical understanding of the phenomena we observe in the laboratory experiments, and to perform experiments that cannot be done with the laboratory equipment at our disposal. The models range from relatively simple quasigeostrophic models to fully 3D Boussinesq Navier-Stokes codes and adaptive-mesh simulations.

Simulations of dynamical phenomena in planetary atmospheres

We use a number of numerical simulations of the atmospheres of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Titan. These include simple quasigeostrophic models, low-order mechanistic models, and fully comprehensive general circulation models, which are currently operational for Mars and under development for Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Titan.

Data assimilation techniques

We use data assimilation to blend observational measurements and model predictions to obtain analyses of the physical and dynamical state of a system consistent with both our current scientific understanding and observations of reality. These are applied with particular reference to the Martian atmosphere and the thermally-driven rotating annulus experiment.