Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: February 2010

1 - An Introduction to Vortex Dynamics for Incompressible Fluid Flows


In this book we study incompressible high Reynolds numbers and incompressible inviscid flows. An important aspect of such fluids is that of vortex dynamics, which in lay terms refers to the interaction of local swirls or eddies in the fluid. Mathematically we analyze this behavior by studying the rotation or curl of the velocity field, called the vorticity. In this chapter we introduce the Euler and the Navier–Stokes equations for incompressible fluids and present elementary properties of the equations. We also introduce some elementary examples that both illustrate the kind of phenomena observed in hydrodynamics and function as building blocks for more complicated solutions studied in later chapters of this book.

This chapter is organized as follows. In Section 1.1 we introduce the equations, relevant physical quantities, and notation. Section 1.2 presents basic symmetry groups of the Euler and the Navier–Stokes equations. In Section 1.3 we discuss the motion of a particle that is carried with the fluid. We show that the particle-trajectory map leads to a natural formulation of how quantities evolve with the fluid. Section 1.4 shows how locally an incompressible field can be approximately decomposed into translation, rotation, and deformation components. By means of exact solutions, we show how these simple motions interact in solutions to the Euler or the Navier–Stokes equations. Continuing in this fashion, Section 1.5 examines exact solutions with shear, vorticity, convection, and diffusion. We show that although deformation can increase vorticity, diffusion can balance this effect.