Art of Science 2009 Online Gallery  «Prev | Thumbnails | Next »

surface quasi-geostrophic turbulence
Isaac Held (lecturer with rank of professor)
Atmospheric and Oceanice Sciences Program/Geosciences
A snapshot of a numerical simulation of a distinctive kind of turbulence thought to be relevant to rapidly rotating fluids such as the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.

These simulations, and the equations on which they are based, are used to study the interaction between small- and large-scale structures. In particular, they help us understand the spectra of atmospheric and oceanic turbulent flows -- that is, the relative magnitude of the excitation of different scales of motion.

This is a simulation of a very idealized homogeneous system in which every point in this square domain is physically indistinguishable from every other point. The domain has no walls or boundaries, but is, rather, re-entrant in both dimensions -- as one leaves one side of the domain one enters on the other side. This system is proving to be of interest not only to atmospheric and oceanic scientists, but also to mathematicians, because of the fractal character of its solutions and due to the possibility that it can help us understand how singularities form in fluid flows.