Inverse Spectral Methods in Acoustic Normal Mode Velocimetry of High Reynolds Number Spherical Couette Flows

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Experimental geophysical fluid dynamics often examines regimes of fluid flow infeasible for computer simulations. Velocimetry of zonal flows present in these regimes brings many challenges when the fluid is opaque and vigorously rotating; spherical Couette flows with molten metals are one such example. The fine structure of the acoustic spectrum can be related to the fluid’s velocity field, and inverse spectral methods can be used to predict and, with sufficient acoustic data, mathematically reconstruct the velocity field. The methods are to some extent inherited from helioseismology. This work develops a Finite Element Method suitable to matching the geometries of experimental setups, as well as modelling the acoustics based on that geometry and zonal flows therein. As an application, this work uses the 60-cm setup Dynamo 3.5 at the University of Maryland Nonlinear Dynamics Laboratory. Additionally, results obtained using a small acoustic data set from recent experiments in air are provided.