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On the collision of drops in turbulent clouds

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2006

P. G. Saffman
Trinity College, Cambridge
J. S. Turner
Trinity College, Cambridge


This paper proposes a theory of collisions between small drops in a turbulent fluid which takes into account collisions between equal drops. The drops considered are much smaller than the small eddies of the turbulence and so the collision rates depend only on the dimensions of the drops, the rate of energy dissipation ε and the kinematic viscosity v. Reasons are given for believing that the collision rate due to the spatial variations of turbulent velocity is shown to be $N = 1\cdot 30(r_1+r_2)^2n_1 n_2(\epsilon|v)^{\frac {1}{2}}$, valid for $r_1|r_2$ between one and two. A numerical integration has been performed using this expression to show how an initially uniform distribution will change because of collisions. An approximate calculation is then made to take account also of collisions which occur between drops of different inertia because of the action of gravity and the turbulent accelerations.

The results are applied to the case of small drops in atmospheric clouds to test the importance of turbulence in initiating rainfall. Estimates of ε are made for typical conditions and these are used to calculate the initial rates of collision, the change in mean properties and the rate of production of large drops. It is concluded that the effects of turbulence in clouds of the layer type should be small, but that moderate amounts of turbulence in cumulus clouds could be effective in broadening the drop size distribution in nearly uniform clouds where only the spatial variations of velocity are important. In heterogeneous clouds the collision rates are increased, and the effects due to the inertia of the drop soon become predominant. The effect of turbulence in causing collisions between unequal drops becomes comparable with that of gravity when ε is about 2000 cm2 sec−3.

Research Article
© 1956 Cambridge University Press

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