The structure and evolution of homogeneous stably stratified sheared turbulence have been investigated through direct numerical simulation. In these simulations the primary dimensionless parameter is the Richardson number which measures the relative importance of stratification and mean shear.
For Richardson numbers less than the transition value the Reynolds stress and vertical density flux are down-gradient. Some of the vertical kinetic energy gained indirectly through production is expended in creating potential energy. Included in this shear-dominated regime is the stationary Richardson number at which the turbulent kinetic energy is constant in time although the spectra are evolving. At low dimensionless shear rate the stationary Richardson number increases with increasing Reynolds number.
At the transition Richardson number the maximum anisotropy and energy partition are achieved. For larger Richardson numbers potential energy is released into vertical kinetic energy and the vertical density flux becomes counter-gradient. The associated production reversal enhances the decay rate of the turbulent kinetic energy.
The effects of other dimensionless parameters have been investigated. After initial transients the developed flow is rather insensitive to the presence of significant initial potential energy. An increase in the Schmidt number increases the effect of stable stratification, e.g. the counter-gradient vertical density flux occurs earlier.
In the shear dominated case the down-gradient fluxes are produced by the pumping of fluid through coherent hairpin-shaped vorticity. In the buoyancy dominated flow the counter-gradient fluid parcels induce helical vorticity structures as they move toward a position of neutral buoyancy.