The singular effects of steady large-scale external strain on the viscous wake generated by a rigid body and the overall flow field are analysed. In an accelerating flow strained at a positive rate, the vorticity field is annihilated owing to positive and negative vorticity either side of the wake centreline diffusing into one another and the volume flux in the wake decreases with downwind distance. Since the wake disappears, the far-field flow changes from monopolar to dipolar. In this case, the force on the body is no longer proportional to the strength of the monopole, but is proportional to the strength of the far field dipole. These results are extended to the case of strained turbulent wakes and this is verified against experimental wind tunnel measurements of Keffer (1965) and Elliott & Townsend (1981) for positive and negative strains. The analysis demonstrates why the total force acting on a body may be estimated by adding the viscous drag and inviscid force due to the irrotational straining field.
Applying the analysis to the wake region of a rigid body or a bubble shows that the wake volume flux decreases even in uniform flows owing to the local straining flow in the near-wake region. While the wake volume flux decreases by a small amount for the flow over streamline and bluff bodies, for the case of a clean bubble the decrease is so large as to render Betz's (1925) drag formula invalid.
To show how these results may be applied to complex flows, the effects of a sequence of positive and negative strains on the wake are considered. The average wake width is much larger than in the absence of a strain field and this leads to diffusion of vorticity between wakes and the cancellation of vorticity. The latter mechanism leads to a net reduction in the volume flux deficit downstream which explains why in calculations of the flow through groups of moving or stationary bodies the wakes of upstream bodies may be ignored even though their drag and lift forces have a significant effect on the overall flow field.
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