The Structure of Turbulence

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Though they may appear random at first glance, turbulent flows do possess structure. The video above shows a numerical simulation of a mixing layer, a flow in which two adjacent regions of fluid move with different velocities. The upper third of the frame shows a top view, and the bottom frame shows a side view, in which the upper fluid layer moves faster than the lower one. The difference in velocities creates shear which quickly drives the mixing layer into turbulence. But watch the chaos carefully, and your eye will pick out vortices rolling clockwise in the largest scales of the mixing layer. These features are known as coherent structures, and they are key to current efforts to understand and model turbulent flows. (Video credit: A. McMullan)

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