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How rapidly is a passive scalar mixed within closed streamlines?

  • P. B. Rhines (a1) and W. R. Young (a2)


The homogenization of a passive ‘tracer’ in a flow with closed mean streamlines occurs in two stages: first, a rapid phase dominated by shear-augmented diffusion over a time ≈P1/3(L/U), where the Péclet number P=LU/κ (L,U and κ are lengthscale, velocity scale and diffusivity), in which initial values of the tracer are replaced by their (generalized) average about a streamline; second, a slow phase requiring the full diffusion time ≈ L2/κ. The diffusion problem for the second phase, where tracer isopleths are held to streamlines by shear diffusion, involves a generalized diffusivity which is proportional to κ, but exceeds it if the streamlines are not circular. Expressions are also given for flow fields that are oscillatory rather than steady.



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