What is turbulence?


Turbulence is movement caused from chaotic or non-deterministic motion or property changes. There are many factors that can cause turbulence and it can occur in both gases and liquids. The opposite of turbulence or turbulent flow motion is laminar flow, which is when the gas or fluid has a smooth and regular motion.

When there is an interruption to the flow or either the gas or fluid. When a liquid flows into a solid surface, momentum diffuses across the boundary layer creating turbulence where the liquid meets the solid. Turbulence in the air is caused from something like two different weather fronts meeting or where a storm is forming creating a change in the air pressure. Turbulence in the air is also caused by objects such as a mountain or a building, this type of can be seen in wind tunnel experiments.

Although it is understood what turbulence exactly is, it’s hard to understand or predict the behavior of turbulence since it is an irregularity of time and space and can defy logical predictions. This is because there are several factors that can alter the movement of gas or fluid and such irregular movement involves many different rates of speed that can alter very rapidly. This is why when an airplane can be moved around in so many different ways, especially depending on where the craft is located in the turbulence.

Since air moves across the earth in many different rates of speed and pressure it contains a large amount of turbulence. Typically people can not see turbulence with the naked eye because air is clear and con not be seen. However, if particles such as a mist or clouds are in the air the turbulence can be seen moving the particles. Turbulence can also be seen if an objected is launched into the air and it’s path and speed alters as is enters different parts of the turbulence or in a wind tunnel experiment to observe aero-dynamics of something.

If water is turbulent in household plumbing, the water will come out of the tap in an irregular flow, typically described as “sputtering.” Over a fire the smoke can be seen to come off the fire fairly direct until it comes into contact with turbulence at which time it begins to swirl and eddy. Part of a fires turbulence can be caused from the heat of the air from the fire coming into contact with the cooler surrounding air.

In human relations turbulence is used to describe an unstable and unpleasant state. An example would be “Their relationship was filled with turbulence in the later years of the marriage,” or “When the child acted irrational and highly tempered it made family time very turbulent.”

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