The viscous and inviscid linear stability of the incompressible flow past a square open cavity is studied numerically. The analysis shows that the flow first undergoes a steady three-dimensional bifurcation at a critical Reynolds number of 1370. The critical mode is localized inside the cavity and has a flat roll structure with a spanwise wavelength of about 0.47 cavity depths. The adjoint global mode reveals that the instability is most efficiently triggered in the thin region close to the upstream tip of the cavity. The structural sensitivity analysis identifies the wavemaker as the region located inside the cavity and spatially concentrated around a closed orbit. As the flow outside the cavity plays no role in the generation mechanisms leading to the bifurcation, we confirm that an appropriate parameter to describe the critical conditions in open cavity flows is the Reynolds number based on the average velocity between the two upper edges. Stabilization is achieved by a decrease of the total momentum inside the shear layer that drives the core vortex within the cavity. The mechanism of instability is then studied by means of a short-wavelength approximation considering pressureless inviscid modes. The closed streamline related to the maximum inviscid growth rate is found to be the same as that around which the global wavemaker is concentrated. The structural sensitivity field based on direct and adjoint eigenmodes, computed at a Reynolds number far higher than that of the base flow, can predict the critical orbit on which the main instabilities inside the cavity arise. Further, we show that the sub-leading unstable time-dependent modes emerging at supercritical conditions are characterized by a period that is a multiple of the revolution time of Lagrangian particles along the orbit of maximum growth rate. The eigenfrequencies of these modes, computed by global stability analysis, are in very good agreement with the asymptotic results.
2015. Vol. 768