City Winds Simulated

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Anyone who has spent much time in an urban environment is familiar with the gusty turbulence that can be generated by steady winds interacting with tall buildings. To the atmospheric boundary layer–the first few hundred meters of atmosphere just above the ground–cities, forests, and other terrain changes act like sudden patches of roughness that disturb the flow and generate turbulence. The video above shows a numerical simulation of flow over an urban environment. The incoming flow off the ocean is relatively calm due to the smoothness of the water. But the roughness of an artificial island just off the coast acts like a trip, creating a new and more turbulent boundary layer within the atmospheric boundary layer. It’s this growing internal boundary layer whose turbulence we see visualized in greens and reds. (Video credit: H. Knoop et al.)

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