Evolution of localized disturbances in the elliptic instability

Yuji Hattori, Mohd Syafiq Bin Marzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The time evolution of localized disturbances in an elliptical flow confined in an elliptical cylinder is studied by direct numerical simulation (DNS). The base flow is subject to the elliptic instability. The unstable growth of localized disturbances predicted by the short-wavelength stability analysis is captured. The time evolution can be divided into four stages: linear, weakly nonlinear, nonlinear and turbulent. In the linear stage a single wavepacket grows exponentially without changing its shape. The exponential growth is accompanied by large oscillations which have time period half that of the fluid particles in the elliptical flow. An averaged wavepacket, which is a train of bending waves that has a finite spatial extent, also grows exponentially, while the oscillations of the growth rate are small. The averaged growth rate increases as the kinematic viscosity decreases; the inviscid limit is close to the value predicted by the short-wavelength stability analysis. In the weakly nonlinear stage the energy stops growing. The vortical structure of the initial disturbances is deformed into wavy patterns. The energy spectrum loses the peak at the initial wavenumber, developing a broad spectrum, and the flow goes into the next stage. In the nonlinear stage weak vorticity is scattered in the whole domain although strong vorticity is still localized. The probability density functions (p.d.f.) of a velocity component and its longitudinal derivative are similar to those of isotropic turbulence; however, the energy spectrum does not have an inertial range showing the Kolmogorov spectrum. Finally in the turbulent stage fine-scale structures appear in the vorticity field. The p.d.f. of the longitudinal derivative of velocity shows the strong intermittency known for isotropic turbulence. The energy spectrum attains an inertial range showing the Kolmogorov spectrum. The turbulence is not symmetric because of rotation and strain; the component of vorticity in the compressing direction is smaller than the other two components. The energy of the mean flow as well as the total energy decreases. The ratio of the lost energy to the initial energy of the mean flow is large in the core region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-627
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Sept 25


  • parametric instability
  • transition to turbulence
  • vortex flows


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution of localized disturbances in the elliptic instability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this