Fluid turbulence represents a major unsolved problem in applied physics, as well as an essential component governing the behavior of geophysical fluid systems. Efforts to understand and parameterize turbulent mixing have been a research focus over the past several decades, and continue to be essential to improved understanding and prediction of the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.
The past few decades have brought tremendous insights into the physics of turbulence, due largely to direct numerical simulations (DNS). This new understanding applies almost entirely to the simplest idealization, i.e. stationary, homogeneous, isotropic turbulence. In nature, turbulence never conforms to this simple picture. In particular, geophysical turbulence is almost always affected by ambient shear, density stratification and planetary rotation, which complicate the physics greatly. The turbulence modeling program at COAS aims to extend state-of-the-art theories of turbulence to small-scale geophysical flows by accounting for these effects. One of the most important examples geoophysical turbulence occurs at interfaces between air or water masses with different properties:
Textbook: Instability in Geophysical Fluid Flows
Other materials of interest:
This research is supported by the National Science Foundation