Research

The Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability

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The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability is a pattern frequently found in nature. It has a distinctive shape, like a series of breaking ocean waves that curl over on themselves to create a string of vortices. The instability shows up when there is a velocity difference between two fluid layers. The unequal shear between the two layers magnifies any disturbance to their interface, which manifests in the fractal, overturning whorls seen in the numerical simulation above. You can find the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability in the lab, in the sky, in the oceanon Jupiter and Mars–even on the sun! For more information on the methods used to create the simulation above, check out the full paper. (Video and research credit: K. Schaal et al.)

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