# Vorticity

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In continuum mechanics, vorticity is a pseudovector field that describes the local spinning motion of a continuum near some point (the tendency of something to rotate  ), as would be seen by an observer located at that point and traveling along with the flow.

## Contents

Conceptually, vorticity could be determined by marking parts of a continuum in a small neighborhood of the point in question, and watching their relative displacements as they move along the flow. The vorticity vector would be twice the mean angular velocity vector of those particles relative to their center of mass, oriented according to the right-hand rule. This quantity must not be confused with the angular velocity of the particles relative to some other point.

More precisely, the vorticity is a pseudovector field ω, defined as the curl (rotational) of the flow velocity u vector. The definition can be expressed by the vector analysis formula:

${\vec {\omega }}\equiv \nabla \times {\vec {u}}\,,$ where is the del operator. The vorticity of a two-dimensional flow is always perpendicular to the plane of the flow, and therefore can be considered a scalar field. As a consequence, the unit of the vorticity is 1/s, i.e. Hz.

The vorticity is related to the flow's circulation (line integral of the velocity) along a closed path by the (classical) Stokes' theorem.  Namely, for any infinitesimal surface element C with normal direction n and area dA, the circulation along the perimeter of C is the dot product ω ∙ (dAn) where ω is the vorticity at the center of C. 

Many phenomena, such as the blowing out of a candle by a puff of air, are more readily explained in terms of vorticity, rather than the basic concepts of pressure and velocity. This applies, in particular, to the formation and motion of vortex rings.

The name vorticity was created by Horace Lamb in 1916.

## Examples

In a mass of continuum that is rotating like a rigid body, the vorticity is twice the angular velocity vector of that rotation. This is the case, for example, in the central core of a Rankine vortex.

The vorticity may be nonzero even when all particles are flowing along straight and parallel pathlines, if there is shear (that is, if the flow speed varies across streamlines). For example, in the laminar flow within a pipe with constant cross section, all particles travel parallel to the axis of the pipe; but faster near that axis, and practically stationary next to the walls. The vorticity will be zero on the axis, and maximum near the walls, where the shear is largest.

Conversely, a flow may have zero vorticity even though its particles travel along curved trajectories. An example is the ideal irrotational vortex, where most particles rotate about some straight axis, with speed inversely proportional to their distances to that axis. A small parcel of continuum that does not straddle the axis will be rotated in one sense but sheared in the opposite sense, in such a way that their mean angular velocity about their center of mass is zero.

 Example flows:   Rigid-body-like vortexv ∝ r Parallel flow with shear Irrotational vortexv ∝ 1/r where v is the velocity of the flow, r is the distance to the center of the vortex and ∝ indicates proportionality.Absolute velocities around the highlighted point:   Relative velocities (magnified) around the highlighted point   Vorticity ≠ 0 Vorticity ≠ 0 Vorticity = 0

Another way to visualize vorticity is to imagine that, instantaneously, a tiny part of the continuum becomes solid and the rest of the flow disappears. If that tiny new solid particle is rotating, rather than just moving with the flow, then there is vorticity in the flow. In the figure below, the left subfigure demonstrates no vorticity, and the right subfigure demonstrates existence of vorticity. ## Mathematical definition

Mathematically, the vorticity of a three-dimensional flow is a pseudovector field, usually denoted by ω, defined as the curl or rotational of the velocity field v describing the continuum motion. In Cartesian coordinates:

{\begin{aligned}{\vec {\omega }}=\nabla \times {\vec {v}}&={\begin{pmatrix}{\frac {\partial }{\partial x}}&{\frac {\partial }{\partial y}}&{\frac {\partial }{\partial z}}\end{pmatrix}}\times {\begin{pmatrix}v_{x}&v_{y}&v_{z}\end{pmatrix}}\\[6px]&={\begin{pmatrix}{\frac {\partial v_{z}}{\partial y}}-{\frac {\partial v_{y}}{\partial z}}&{\frac {\partial v_{x}}{\partial z}}-{\frac {\partial v_{z}}{\partial x}}&{\frac {\partial v_{y}}{\partial x}}-{\frac {\partial v_{x}}{\partial y}}\end{pmatrix}}\,.\end{aligned}} In words, the vorticity tells how the velocity vector changes when one moves by an infinitesimal distance in a direction perpendicular to it.

In a two-dimensional flow where the velocity is independent of the z coordinate and has no z component, the vorticity vector is always parallel to the z axis, and therefore can be expressed as a scalar field multiplied by a constant unit vector z:

{\begin{aligned}{\vec {\omega }}=\nabla \times {\vec {v}}&={\begin{pmatrix}{\frac {\partial }{\partial x}}&{\frac {\partial }{\partial y}}&{\frac {\partial }{\partial z}}\end{pmatrix}}\times \left(v_{x},v_{y},0\right)\\[6px]&=\left({\frac {\partial v_{y}}{\partial x}}-{\frac {\partial v_{x}}{\partial y}}\right){\vec {z}}\,.\end{aligned}} ## Evolution

The evolution of the vorticity field in time is described by the vorticity equation, which can be derived from the Navier–Stokes equations.

In many real flows where the viscosity can be neglected (more precisely, in flows with high Reynolds number), the vorticity field can be modeled well by a collection of discrete vortices, the vorticity being negligible everywhere except in small regions of space surrounding the axes of the vortices. This is clearly true in the case of two-dimensional potential flow (i.e. two-dimensional zero viscosity flow), in which case the flowfield can be modeled as a complex-valued field on the complex plane.

Vorticity is a useful tool to understand how the ideal potential flow solutions can be perturbed to model real flows. In general, the presence of viscosity causes a diffusion of vorticity away from the vortex cores into the general flow field. This flow is accounted for by the diffusion term in the vorticity transport equation. Thus, in cases of very viscous flows (e.g. Couette Flow), the vorticity will be diffused throughout the flow field and it is probably simpler to look at the velocity field than at the vorticity.

## Vortex lines and vortex tubes

A vortex line or vorticity line is a line which is everywhere tangent to the local vorticity vector. Vortex lines are defined by the relation 

${\frac {dx}{\omega _{x}}}={\frac {dy}{\omega _{y}}}={\frac {dz}{\omega _{z}}}\,,$ where ω = (ωx, ωy, ωz) is the vorticity vector in Cartesian coordinates.

A vortex tube is the surface in the continuum formed by all vortex lines passing through a given (reducible) closed curve in the continuum. The 'strength' of a vortex tube (also called vortex flux)  is the integral of the vorticity across a cross-section of the tube, and is the same everywhere along the tube (because vorticity has zero divergence). It is a consequence of Helmholtz's theorems (or equivalently, of Kelvin's circulation theorem) that in an inviscid fluid the 'strength' of the vortex tube is also constant with time. Viscous effects introduce frictional losses and time dependence.

In a three-dimensional flow, vorticity (as measured by the volume integral of the square of its magnitude) can be intensified when a vortex line is extended — a phenomenon known as vortex stretching.  This phenomenon occurs in the formation of a bathtub vortex in outflowing water, and the build-up of a tornado by rising air currents.

Helicity is vorticity in motion along a third axis in a corkscrew fashion.

## Vorticity meters

### Rotating-vane vorticity meter

A rotating-vane vorticity meter was invented by Russian hydraulic engineer A. Ya. Milovich (1874–1958). In 1913 he proposed a cork with four blades attached as a device qualitatively showing the magnitude of the vertical projection of the vorticity and demonstrated a motion-picture photography of float's motion on the water surface in a model of river bend. 

Rotating-vane vorticity meters are commonly shown in educational films on continuum mechanics (famous examples include the NCFMF's "Vorticity"  and "Fundamental Principles of Flow" by Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research  ).

## Specific sciences

### Aeronautics

In aerodynamics, the lift distribution over a finite wing may be approximated by assuming that each segment of the wing has a semi-infinite trailing vortex behind it. It is then possible to solve for the strength of the vortices using the criterion that there be no flow induced through the surface of the wing. This procedure is called the vortex panel method of computational fluid dynamics. The strengths of the vortices are then summed to find the total approximate circulation about the wing. According to the Kutta–Joukowski theorem, lift is the product of circulation, airspeed, and air density.

### Atmospheric sciences

The relative vorticity is the vorticity relative to the Earth induced by the air velocity field. This air velocity field is often modeled as a two-dimensional flow parallel to the ground, so that the relative vorticity vector is generally scalar rotation quantity perpendicular to the ground. Vorticity is positive when - looking down onto the earth's surface - the wind turns counterclockwise. In the northern hemisphere, positive vorticity is called cyclonic rotation, and negative vorticity is anticyclonic rotation; the nomenclature is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.

The absolute vorticity is computed from the air velocity relative to an inertial frame, and therefore includes a term due to the Earth's rotation, the Coriolis parameter.

The potential vorticity is absolute vorticity divided by the vertical spacing between levels of constant (potential) temperature (or entropy). The absolute vorticity of an air mass will change if the air mass is stretched (or compressed) in the vertical direction, but the potential vorticity is conserved in an adiabatic flow. As adiabatic flow predominates in the atmosphere, the potential vorticity is useful as an approximate tracer of air masses in the atmosphere over the timescale of a few days, particularly when viewed on levels of constant entropy.

The barotropic vorticity equation is the simplest way for forecasting the movement of Rossby waves (that is, the troughs and ridges of 500  hPa geopotential height) over a limited amount of time (a few days). In the 1950s, the first successful programs for numerical weather forecasting utilized that equation.

In modern numerical weather forecasting models and general circulation models (GCMs), vorticity may be one of the predicted variables, in which case the corresponding time-dependent equation is a prognostic equation.

Helicity of the air motion is important in forecasting supercells and the potential for tornadic activity.

## Related Research Articles In physics, the Navier–Stokes equations, named after French engineer and physicist Claude-Louis Navier and Anglo-Irish physicist and mathematician George Gabriel Stokes, describe the motion of viscous fluid substances. In fluid dynamics, potential flow describes the velocity field as the gradient of a scalar function: the velocity potential. As a result, a potential flow is characterized by an irrotational velocity field, which is a valid approximation for several applications. The irrotationality of a potential flow is due to the curl of the gradient of a scalar always being equal to zero.

In physics, angular velocity refers to how fast an object rotates or revolves relative to another point, i.e. how fast the angular position or orientation of an object changes with time. There are two types of angular velocity: orbital angular velocity and spin angular velocity. Spin angular velocity refers to how fast a rigid body rotates with respect to its centre of rotation. Orbital angular velocity refers to how fast a point object revolves about a fixed origin, i.e. the time rate of change of its angular position relative to the origin. Spin angular velocity is independent of the choice of origin, in contrast to orbital angular velocity which depends on the choice of origin. In fluid dynamics, a vortex is a region in a fluid in which the flow revolves around an axis line, which may be straight or curved. Vortices form in stirred fluids, and may be observed in smoke rings, whirlpools in the wake of a boat, and the winds surrounding a tropical cyclone, tornado or dust devil.

The vorticity equation of fluid dynamics describes evolution of the vorticity ω of a particle of a fluid as it moves with its flow, that is, the local rotation of the fluid . The equation is: In fluid dynamics, the baroclinity of a stratified fluid is a measure of how misaligned the gradient of pressure is from the gradient of density in a fluid. In meteorology a baroclinic atmosphere is one for which the density depends on both the temperature and the pressure; contrast this with a barotropic atmosphere, for which the density depends only on the pressure. In atmospheric terms, the barotropic zones of the Earth are generally found in the central latitudes, or tropics, whereas the baroclinic areas are generally found in the mid-latitude/polar regions.

In 1851, George Gabriel Stokes derived an expression, now known as Stokes law, for the frictional force – also called drag force – exerted on spherical objects with very small Reynolds numbers in a viscous fluid. Stokes' law is derived by solving the Stokes flow limit for small Reynolds numbers of the Navier–Stokes equations.

In fluid mechanics, Helmholtz's theorems, named after Hermann von Helmholtz, describe the three-dimensional motion of fluid in the vicinity of vortex filaments. These theorems apply to inviscid flows and flows where the influence of viscous forces are small and can be ignored.

In fluid mechanics, the Taylor–Proudman theorem states that when a solid body is moved slowly within a fluid that is steadily rotated with a high angular velocity , the fluid velocity will be uniform along any line parallel to the axis of rotation. must be large compared to the movement of the solid body in order to make the Coriolis force large compared to the acceleration terms. The Gödel metric is an exact solution of the Einstein field equations in which the stress–energy tensor contains two terms, the first representing the matter density of a homogeneous distribution of swirling dust particles, and the second associated with a nonzero cosmological constant. It is also known as the Gödel solution or Gödel universe.

In fluid mechanics, potential vorticity (PV) is a quantity which is proportional to the dot product of vorticity and stratification. This quantity, following a parcel of air or water, can only be changed by diabatic or frictional processes. It is a useful concept for understanding the generation of vorticity in cyclogenesis, especially along the polar front, and in analyzing flow in the ocean. In physics, a quantum vortex represents a quantized flux circulation of some physical quantity. In most cases quantum vortices are a type of topological defect exhibited in superfluids and superconductors. The existence of quantum vortices was first predicted by Lars Onsager in 1949 in connection with superfluid helium. Onsager reasoned that quantisation of vorticity is a direct consequence of the existence of a superfluid order parameter as a spatially continuous wavefunction. Onsager also pointed out that quantum vortices describe the circulation of superfluid and conjectured that their excitations are responsible for superfluid phase transitions. These ideas of Onsager were further developed by Richard Feynman in 1955 and in 1957 were applied to describe the magnetic phase diagram of type-II superconductors by Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov. In 1935 Fritz London published a very closely related work on magnetic flux quantization in superconductors. London's fluxoid can also be viewed as a quantum vortex.

The Kutta–Joukowski theorem is a fundamental theorem in aerodynamics used for the calculation of lift of an airfoil and any two-dimensional bodies including circular cylinders translating in a uniform fluid at a constant speed large enough so that the flow seen in the body-fixed frame is steady and unseparated. The theorem relates the lift generated by an airfoil to the speed of the airfoil through the fluid, the density of the fluid and the circulation around the airfoil. The circulation is defined as the line integral around a closed loop enclosing the airfoil of the component of the velocity of the fluid tangent to the loop. It is named after Martin Kutta and Nikolai Zhukovsky who first developed its key ideas in the early 20th century. Kutta–Joukowski theorem is an inviscid theory, but it is a good approximation for real viscous flow in typical aerodynamic applications.

The intent of this article is to highlight the important points of the derivation of the Navier–Stokes equations as well as its application and formulation for different families of fluids.

In fluid dynamics, the Oseen equations describe the flow of a viscous and incompressible fluid at small Reynolds numbers, as formulated by Carl Wilhelm Oseen in 1910. Oseen flow is an improved description of these flows, as compared to Stokes flow, with the (partial) inclusion of convective acceleration.

Fluid motion can be said to be a two-dimensional flow when the flow velocity at every point is parallel to a fixed plane. The velocity at any point on a given normal to that fixed plane should be constant.

The Lambda2 method, or Lambda2 vortex criterion, is a vortex core line detection algorithm that can adequately identify vortices from a three-dimensional fluid velocity field. The Lambda2 method is Galilean invariant, which means it produces the same results when a uniform velocity field is added to the existing velocity field or when the field is translated.

In fluid dynamics, Beltrami flows are flows in which the vorticity vector and the velocity vector are parallel to each other. In other words, Beltrami flow is a flow where Lamb vector is zero. It is named after the Italian mathematician Eugenio Beltrami due to his derivation of the Beltrami vector field, while initial developments in fluid dynamics were done by the Russian scientist Ippolit S. Gromeka in 1881.

In fluid dynamics, Hicks equation or sometimes also referred as Bragg–Hawthorne equation or Squire–Long equation is a partial differential equation that describes the distribution of stream function for axisymmetric inviscid fluid, named after William Mitchinson Hicks, who derived it first in 1898. The equation was also re-derived by Stephen Bragg and William Hawthorne in 1950 and by Robert R. Long in 1953 and by Herbert Squire in 1956. The Hicks equation without swirl was first introduced by George Gabriel Stokes in 1842. The Grad–Shafranov equation appearing in plasma physics also takes the same form as the Hicks equation.

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