Vortex dynamics of turbulence-coherent structure interaction

D. S. Pradeep, F. Hussain

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12 Scopus citations


We study the interaction between a coherent structure (CS) and imposed external turbulence by employing direct numerical simulations (DNS) designed for unbounded flows with compact vorticity distribution. Flow evolution comprises (i) the reorganization of turbulence into finer-scale spiral filaments, (ii) the growth of wave-like perturbations within the vortex core, and (iii) the eventual arrest of production, leading to the decay of ambient turbulence. The filaments, preferentially aligned in the azimuthal direction, undergo two types of interactions: parallel filaments pair to form higher-circulation "threads", and anti-parallel threads form dipoles that self-advect radially outwards. The consequent radial transport of angular momentum manifests as an overshoot of the mean circulation profile-a theoretically known consequence of faster-than-viscous vortex decay. It is found that while the resulting centrifugal instability can enhance turbulence production, vortex decay is arrested by the dampening of the instability due to the "turbulent mixing" caused by instability-generated threads. Ensemble-averaged turbulence statistics show strong fluctuations within the core; these are triggered by the external turbulence, and grow even as the turbulence decays. This surprising growth on a normal-mode-stable vortex results from algebraic amplification through "linear transient growth". Transient growth is examined by initializing DNS with the "optimal" modes obtained from linear analysis. The simulations show that the growth of transient modes reproduces the prominent dynamics of CS-turbulence interaction: formation of thread-dipoles, growth of core fluctuations, and appearance of bending waves on the column's core. At the larger Reynolds numbers prevailing in practical flows, transient growth may enable accelerated vortex decay through vortex column breakdown.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-282
Number of pages18
JournalTheoretical and Computational Fluid Dynamics
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Coherent structure
  • Direct numerical simulation
  • Turbulence
  • Vortex dynamics


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