Tag Archives: turbulence

Muddy water watching on my lunch break. Turbulence and all the good stuff!

This might not be the kind of water that people usually like to look at during their lunch break — I admit, it does not look particularly inviting. But look at how much the mud can tell us about what’s going on in the water!

I love how the overexposed seagull is stirring up a muddy wake as it paddles through the shallow water. Would you have thought that it was THAT shallow and that a small bird paddling along would create such a mess?

I love all the different kinds of structures in these pictures. The mud that has fallen dry and that shows all these canyon-like shapes where the water has run off. The mixing of waters with different mud concentrations, thus different colors. And then the muddy trajectory of the seagull.

Focussing on the mixing of water masses: See the lighter, sediment-loaded plume flowing from somewhere to the right over to the lower left of the picture below? And do you notice how different the shear-induced mixing looks from the paddling-induced one?

Here is the same spot again, only seconds later. See how dynamic the plume is, entraining clearer water as it flows along, eddying at its sides?

And what did you do during your lunch break? :-)

Windy days at Holtenau locks: Now THAT’s a turbulent wake!

Now that the weather is nice and sunny again, here is what it looked like only last Saturday. It wasn’t even really stormy, but windy enough so that the ships leaving the locks at Kiel Holtenau were working a lot harder than usual. Especially difficult when you are almost empty and then there is a lot of wind! See that wake?

Right behind the ship you see above, there was a second ship leaving the locks. See how milky the water looks where the first ship went from all the air bubbles that were pushed under water by the ship’s propeller? You can even see some of that water spreading underneath that floating barrier in the foreground!

And see the difference between the waves on the upwind side of the ship and the downwind side?

Here is the picture that my friend sent me that she took from inside of the café that we were sitting in before I HAD to go outside and take pictures. If I am being sent pictures of my back every week by my friends, are they trying to tell me something? :-D

Wake comparisons: Row boat and motor boat

I just love this picture: The two boats in the front are going at the same speed (the trainer is driving right next to the person in the row boat over a long distance), yet look at how different the two ships’ wakes look!

The motor boat has this huge, breaking, turbulent wake. Even though it rides so high up in the water, it displaces a lot of water and creates a wake with a large amplitude (how large the amplitude is is visible in the picture below, where some poor people were sitting in row boats when a motor boat sped past. But also here: Look at how cool these feathery waves that constitute the wake look together!).

But then, going back to the original picture (which I am showing again below) — look in contrast at the row boat’s wake. You see the paired eddies where the oars were in the water, and you see a tiny little trail where the body of the ship went. But that’s all. Yet both boats are going at exactly the same speed! Pretty cool, isn’t it? (Also pretty scary how much energy the motor boat is spending on moving water and moving a larger hull and a heavy engine rather than just propulsion when the payload of both boats is more or less the same — one person)

Turbulent wake watching

Yesterday I wrote about why a ship’s turbulent wake stays visible for such a long time after the ship has gone. Here just more pictures of the same phenomenon because apparently I cannot NOT take pictures of this kind of stuff.

Above: Very clearly very turbulent.

Below: Less energetic, but the large eddies still move a lot of water around and you very clearly see the border between the turbulent wake and the “normal” water around it.

Why does a turbulent wake stay visible for such a long time after the ship has gone?

Speaking of wake watching, the other day I wrote about long distance wave watching in the sunset, i.e. what kind of things one can deduce on surface roughness (and its causes) from different reflections of the setting sun on the water. And then I was asked why ships’ wakes were still visible for such a long time after the ships had already sailed. So here is my attempt at an explanation:

Check out the pictures above and below. In both you see the turbulent wake of the RV Kristine Bonnevie on our recent student cruise. You clearly see where the ship’s hull has passed through the water, moved forward by the ship’s propeller, which is very clearly introducing a lot of turbulence. And you very clearly see where the ship has not been: a more or less undisturbed wave field full of small wind waves, that looks substantially different from the turbulent wake.

Now why does the turbulent wake look so clearly different from the rest of the water for such a long time, even when the ship is gone? Shouldn’t the wake be invaded by surface waves at their wave speed?

Yes, that should happen, if the wake wasn’t turbulent. As the wake is turbulent, however, there are eddies moving the water around for quite some time after the ship has passed. If the water is being moved faster than the phase speed of the waves, they can’t propagate in there, the “flow” is too fast, the waves are washed away. See where the hydraulic jump is happening in the picture below, and waves seem to be squeezed together outside of the turbulent wake?

Just because it’s fun, here my hydraulic jump animation: the wave (person) is traveling exactly as fast as the current (escalator), it therefore doesn’t move. More Froude number animations + explanations here if you wanna look at what happens if the wave is moving faster or slower than the current…

Anyway. Back to pretty pictures. Below, you see a wake that is a little older: The surface is still a lot smoother than over the rest of the fjord, because the waves still haven’t propagated into the turbulent region. And when they do, longer waves propagate in first, because their phase velocity is faster than that of short waves. But the long waves’ effect on surface roughness is smaller than that of short waves, so the wake still appears smooth for even longer.

Only when all the turbulence has died down and the water is stagnant again (Or moving with the surrounding water) will the wave field be able to grow back to look the same as everywhere else. And therefore, even if you look at water from a distance, you can see where ships have been, even when they’ve long gone themselves.

Hope this makes sense! :-)

Measuring turbulence with a microstructure sonde

One of the instruments that was used on our recent student cruise was the so-called MSS (“MicroStructure Sonde”, sometimes also called VMP, “Vertical Microstructure Profiler”) — an instrument that is used to measure how much mixing is going on in the ocean. Those measurements can help us figure out e.g. renewal rates of bottom water in fjords, which are interesting because of the very low oxygen concentrations found there, and their impact on biogeochemistry. And of course it’s also interesting from a purely physical oceanographic curiosity :-)

In the picture below, you see the MSS being deployed: It’s a slim instrument, maybe 1.5m in length, that is attached to an orange cable that runs on a small winch.

And a big THANK YOU to cruise leader Elin (observing from the upper deck) for bringing me along on this cruise! :-)

At the end of the instrument that sticks over the railing in the picture above, you can make out little pins, protected by a metal cage. Those are the sensors for both temperature and velocity shear, both measuring at very high frequency, many many times per second. They are also very sensitve, so in the picture below you see the wooden crate that is used for storing the instrument in between stations.

Once the instrument is deployed into the water, it is not just lowered down in the way a CTD is, but it has to be free-falling through the water. In order to achive that, the person running the winch has to constantly watch the cable going into the water to make sure there is some slack on the cable.

Algot is running the MSS winch

A second way to make sure the instrument is free-falling is to constantly monitor the incoming data on a PC onboard the ship.

Elina is working the MSS “inside job” (Picture by Sonja Wahl)

While the data is being monitored, also the depth the instrument is at is being monitored, or rather its pressure. Since the instrument is free falling, it is not a simple feat to make sure it gets fairly close (approximately 10m) to the bottom, but does not hit the bottom and destroy the sondes. One way we’ve done that on the student cruise is by stopping the outgoing cable when the instrument was at 75% of the water depth and let it fall, and then once the instrument is within 20ish meters of the bottom to start hauling the cable back in (“panic” in the list below ;-))

Snapshot of the piece of paper used to keep track of what’s going on at the current station

Looking at the picture of Algot below, you know that the instrument must be on its way up. Why? Because there is clearly no slack on the cable!

Algot is bringing the MSS back to the surface

In the picture below, do you see the green fringe on the instrument, as well as the rope slung around the metal protection cage thingy for the sondes? Those are there to make sure that no eddies (and especially no trains of eddies) develop while the instrument is falling, because if the instrument was vibrating or moving in some way other than just falling freely, that would influence the data we measure.

The instrument is then brought back on board, and we are ready for the next station!

Algot and Arnt Petter bring the MSS back on board

And which spots did we measure turbulence in? In many, but especially on either side of the fjord’s sill, because that’s where we expect mixing due to tides going in and out (which we also saw in the fjord circulation tank experiment!).

Visualizing flow around a paddle

Whenever I’m in a canoe or kayak, I love watching the two eddies that form behind the paddle when you pull it through the water. It looks kinda like this:

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Flow around a paddle

Instead of pulling a paddle through more or less stagnant water, we could also use a stationary paddle in a flow. And that is the setup I want to discuss today: A stationary, round paddle perpendicular to an air flow.

A very cool feature of the paddle – which we know has to exist from the sketch above – is shown below: There is a point somewhere downstream of the paddle, where the direction of the air flow changes and a return flow towards the paddle starts. You can see that the threads on the stick I am placing in the return flow go partly towards, partly away from the paddle. So clearly the stick is in the right spot!

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Visualizing the flow field behind a paddle with a threaded stick

Another visualization that my dad came up with below: Threads are pulled back towards the paddle in the return flow.

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Visualizing the return flow behind a paddle with threads

Doesn’t it look awesome?

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Visualizing the return flow behind a paddle with threads

Another way to visualize the change in flow direction is to take a rotor and move it from far downstream of the paddle towards the paddle and back.

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Visualizing the change in flow direction by moving a rotor towards and away from a paddle blocking an air stream

All of this is shown in the movie:

Don’t you wish you had all this stuff to play with? :-)

(And do you now understand why I was so excited about the diving duck? :-))

Shear flow

Another early morning crossing this bridge.

IMG_1544And the current and the sun glint were perfect for this kind of photos:IMG_1581They almost look like schlieren photography images in those super old papers, don’t they?
IMG_1587And I find it extremely fascinating how you can see the boundary layer between the flow and the stagnant water, and how wind waves don’t manage to cross that boundary.
IMG_1592See the tiny capillary waves on the right side of the boundary? Those are locally generated because the larger waves on the top left just don’t make it over the strong shear.
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You want to watch a movie? Sure!

And another thing I love on those early morning trips? Being completely alone in a pretty park, with dew on the grass and flowers in the sun :-)
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Flow separation

On the way to the pool I cross over the Elbe river on this pretty bridge.

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Which is pretty spectacular, just because the structure itself is so amazing.

IMG_0901 IMG_0906 IMG_0923But what is even more spectacular is how every time I am there I see new things in the flow field. And the example I want to show to you today is the flow field around one of the pylons of the bridge that runs in parallel to the one I am on.

In the movie below you see a classical flow separation, similar to what might happen at an airplane’s wing. The water flowing towards you under the bridge arrives (pretty much) laminar, but then on contact with the pylon turbulence develops, eddies form and the flow separates from the boundary of the obstacle. Nice! :-)