Revisiting Batchelor's theory of two-dimensional turbulence

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Recent mathematical results have shown that a central assumption in the theory of two-dimensional turbulence proposed by Batchelor (Phys. Fluids, vol. 12, 1969, p. 233) is false. That theory, which predicts a X-2/3 k(-1) enstrophy spectrum in the inertial range of freely-decaying turbulence, and which has evidently been successful in describing certain aspects of numerical simulations at high Reynolds numbers Re, assumes that there is a finite, non-zero enstrophy dissipation X in the limit of infinite Re. This, however, is not true for flows having finite vorticity. The enstrophy dissipation in fact vanishes. We revisit Batchelor's theory and propose a simple modification of it to ensure vanishing X in the limit Re -> infinity. Our proposal is supported by high Reynolds number simulations which confirm that X decays like 1/ln Re, and which, following the time of peak enstrophy dissipation, exhibit enstrophy spectra containing an increasing proportion of the total enstrophy (omega(2))/2 in the inertial range as Re increases. Together with the mathematical analysis of vanishing X, these observations motivate a straightforward and, indeed, alarmingly simple modification of Batchelor's theory: just replace Batchelor's enstrophy spectrum X(2/3)k(-1) with (omega(2))k(-1)(In Re)(-1).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-391
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2007


  • Dimensional decaying turbulence
  • Euler equations
  • Enstrophy dissipation
  • Contour dynamics
  • Self-similarity
  • High-resolution
  • Energy
  • Limit


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