Stably stratified sheared flows are ubiquitous in geophysical flows from the ocean to the stars, and the route to turbulence in these flows remains an open question. The article by Lefauve et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 848, 2018, pp. 508–544) is an invitation to this journey. With impressive experimental precision mastered by few teams in the world, the nature of the coherent structure that dominates the flow on the verge of turbulent breakdown is revealed and analysed through one- or two-dimensional modern stability analysis of an experimentally obtained base flow. The effect of confinement is surprisingly strong, advocating for leaving the textbook flows, inhomogeneous in only one direction, for the more complex shores of real flows, now accessible to analysis of multidimensional stability problems. The route explored by Lefauve et al. (2018) renews with the long tradition of the supercritical bifurcation scenario, it revisits the linear stability theory with possibility of resonances, critical layers and more to be imagined, since complex base flows are now available to explore both experimentally and analytically.
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