Canada’s Bay of Fundy has some of the wildest tidal flows in the world. Every six hours, the flow direction through the strait shifts and tidal currents rise to several meters per second. This creates distinct jets a couple kilometers long that pour from one side of the strait to the other.
What you see here is a numerical simulation of the flow using a technique called Large Eddy Simulation (or LES, for short). It’s one method used by fluid dynamicists to model turbulent flows without taking on the complexity of the full Navier-Stokes equations. At large lengthscales, like those of the jets and eddies we see above, LES uses the exact physics. But when it comes to the smaller scales – like the flow nearest the shores or the bottom of the strait – the simulation will approximate the physics in order to make calculations quicker and easier. Models like these make large-scale problems – including modeling our daily weather patterns – possible. (Image credit: A. Creech, source)