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On the role of vorticity stretching and strain self-amplification in the turbulence energy cascade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2021

Perry L. Johnson*
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA
Email address for correspondence:


The tendency of turbulent flows to produce fine-scale motions from large-scale energy injection is often viewed as a scale-wise cascade of kinetic energy driven by vorticity stretching. This has been recently evaluated by an exact, spatially local relationship (Johnson, P.L. Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 124, 2020, p. 104501), which also highlights the contribution of strain self-amplification. In this paper, the role of these two mechanisms is explored in more detail. Vorticity stretching and strain amplification interactions between velocity gradients filtered at the same scale account for approximately half of the energy cascade rate, directly connecting the restricted Euler dynamics to the energy cascade. Multiscale strain amplification and vorticity stretching are equally important, however, and more closely resemble eddy viscosity physics. Moreover, ensuing evidence of a power-law decay of energy transfer contributions from disparate scales supports the notion of an energy cascade, albeit a ‘leaky’ one. Besides vorticity stretching and strain self-amplification, a third mechanism of energy transfer is introduced and related to the vortex thinning mechanism important for the inverse cascade in two dimensions. Simulation results indicate this mechanism also provides a net source of backscatter in three-dimensional turbulence, in the range of scales associated with the bottleneck effect. Taken together, these results provide a rich set of implications for large-eddy simulation modelling.

JFM Papers
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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