Volume 521, October 2010
|Number of page(s)||7|
|Published online||15 October 2010|
Potential vorticity dynamics in the framework of disk shallow-water theory
I. The Rossby wave instability
School of Mathematical Sciences, Queen Mary
University of London, London E1 4NS, UK e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Astronomy Department, City College of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94112, USA
Accepted: 13 July 2010
Context. The Rossby wave instability in astrophysical disks is a potentially important mechanism for driving angular momentum transport in disks.
Aims. We attempt to more clearly understand this instability in an approximate three-dimensional disk model environment which we assume to be a single homentropic annular layer we analyze using disk shallow-water theory.
Methods. We consider the normal mode stability analysis of two kinds of radial profiles of the mean potential vorticity: the first type is a single step and the second kind is a symmetrical step of finite width describing either a localized depression or peak of the mean potential vorticity.
Results. For single potential vorticity steps we find there is no instability. There is no instability when the symmetric step is a localized peak. However, the Rossby wave instability occurs when the symmetrical step profile is a depression, which, in turn, corresponds to localized peaks in the mean enthalpy profile. This is in qualitative agreement with previous two-dimensional investigations of the instability. For all potential vorticity depressions, instability occurs for regions narrower than some maximum radial length scale. We interpret the instability as resulting from the interaction of at least two Rossby edgewaves.
Conclusions. We identify the Rossby wave instability in the restricted three-dimensional framework of disk shallow water theory. Additional examinations of generalized barotropic flows are needed. Viewing disk vortical instabilities from the conceptual perspective of interacting edgewaves can be useful.
Key words: hydrodynamics / accretion, accretion disks / instabilities
© ESO, 2010
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