High-image-density particle image velocimetry allows characterization of the instantaneous patterns of streamwise vorticity ωx over the cross-section of the near wake of a circular cylinder, and the manner in which they evolve with streamwise distance. Emphasis is on the Reynolds number Re = 10 × 103, for which the Kelvin–Helmholtz (K–H) mode in the separating shear layers has a streamwise wavelength much smaller than that of the Kármán mode. Consequently, the corresponding spanwise wavelength between ωx concentrations increases substantially from its value in the separating shear layer to a larger one in the near wake. This streamwise evolution is defined by spatial correlations of patterns of instantaneous ωx and interpreted with the aid of the quasi-two-dimensional topology of the wake in the base region of the cylinder. The principal features of the phase-averaged topology are foci of the initially formed Kármán vortices and a saddle point between them. Immediately downstream of this saddle, remarkably coherent patterns of ωx concentrations are evident; they have a wavelength approximately equal to the cylinder diameter. Moreover, larger-scale spanwise distortion eventually occurs. This distortion exhibits several modes; the most severe is a nearly discontinuous variation of patterns of ωx.
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