This article reviews some aspects of the roles that laboratory experiments have played in the study of orographic effects in the Earth's atmosphere and oceans. The review focuses on, but is not restricted to, physical systems for which the effects of both background stratification and rotation are important. In the past, such laboratory studies have been largely decoupled from attempts to make quantitative comparisons with the results of numerical-model studies or observations from field programs. Rather, they have been used mostly in the important task of better understanding the physics of rotating and stratified flows. Furthermore, most laboratory experiments concerned with the effects of orography on either homogeneous or stratified rotating fluids have considered laminar flows, whereas their counterpart flows in the atmosphere and ocean are turbulent. We argue that laboratory investigations are likely to be more useful in addressing critical environmental problems if the studies are more closely allied with numerical-modeling efforts. The latter, in turn, should be tied to field projects, with the overall objective of improving our ability to predict the behavior of natural systems. In this same spirit, we conclude that far more attention should be given to the laboratory simulation of the turbulent characteristics of natural flows. The availability of rapidly developing technology to acquire and analyze laboratory data provides the capability necessary to support the increasingly important roles that laboratory experiments can play in understanding and predicting the behavior of our natural environment.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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