Coherent axisymmetric structures in a turbulent jet are modelled as linear instability modes of the mean velocity profile, regarded as the profile of a, fictitious laminar inviscid flow. The usual multiple-scales expansion method is used in conjunction with a family of profiles consistent with similarity laws for the initial mixing region and approximating the profiles measured by Crow & Champagne (1971), Moore (1977) and other investigators, to deal with the effects of flow divergence. The downstream growth and approach to peak amplitude of axisymmetric wave modes with prescribed real frequency is calculated numerically, and comparisons are made with various sets of experimental data. Excellent agreement is found with the wavelength measurements of Crow & Champagne. Quantities such as the amplitude gain which depend on cumulative effects are less well predicted, though the agreement is still quite tolerable in view of the facts that this simple linear model of slowly diverging flow is being applied far outside its range of strict validity and that many of the published measurements are significantly contaminated by nonlinear effects. The predictions show that substantial variations are to be expected in such quantities as the phase speed and growth rate, according to the flow signal (velocity, pressure, etc.) measured, and that these variations depend not only on the axial measurement location but also on the cross-stream position. Trends of this kind help to explain differences in, for example, the preferred Strouhal number found by investigators using hot wires or pressure probes on the centre-line, in the mixing layer or in the near field.
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