Anisotropy and Coherent Vortex Structures in Planetary Turbulence

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Science  15 Apr 1994:
Vol. 264, Issue 5157, pp. 410-413
DOI: 10.1126/science.264.5157.410


High-resolution numerical simulations were made of unforced, planetary-scale fluid dynamics. In particular, the simulation was based on the quasi-geostrophic equations for a Boussinesq fluid in a uniformly rotating and stably stratified environment, which is an idealization for large regions of either the atmosphere or ocean. The solutions show significant discrepancies from the long-standing theoretical prediction of isotropy. The discrepancies are associated with the self-organization of the flow into a large population of coherent vortices. Their chaotic interactions govern the subsequent evolution of the flow toward a final configuration that is nonturbulent.