The pitfalls of investigating rotational flows with the Euler equations

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Small viscous effects in high-Reynolds-number rotational flows always accumulate over time to have a leading-order effect. Therefore, the high-Reynolds-number limit for the Navier-Stokes equations is singular. It is important to investigate whether a solution of the Euler equations can approximate a real flow at large Reynolds number. These facts are often overlooked and, as a result, the Euler equations are used to simulate laminar rotational flows at large Reynolds number. Based on the Fredholm alternative, an asymptotic perturbation theory is described to establish secularity conditions determined by viscosity for an inviscid solution to approximate a real viscous fluid. Four important classical inviscid solutions are investigated using the theory with the following conclusions. The Stuart cats' eyes and Mallier-Maslowe vortices are inconsistent with any real fluid at high Reynolds number; whereas Hill's spherical vortex is confirmed to be consistent with a steady state in the spherical core region and the Lamb-Chaplygin dipole is found to be consistent with a quasi-steady state in the circular core region. These solutions have been widely used for analysing the stability of vortex flows and wakes, and their interactions with shock waves or bubbles. Serendipitously, we have revealed an original exact solution of the Navier-Stokes equations which is time dependent, has non-zero nonlinear convective terms and is restricted to a finite domain with the decay rate depending on dipole radius.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA42
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date30 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Navier-Stokes equations
  • vortex dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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